Military Capabilities

ReCAAP warns of imminent attack on ships in Sulu and Celebes seas

30 October 2018

Philippine Coast Guard personnel seen here as mock pirates, during an exercise with the Japan Coast Guard. Citing sources from the former, ReCAAP has warned of an imminent attack in the Southern Philippines tri-border maritime region. Source: Getty Images

Key Points

  • An inter-governmental body has warned of an imminent attack on merchant shipping by gunmen in waters off Sabah, and the Southern Philippines
  • Warning underlines the need for continued vigilance in the tri-border maritime region

Militants linked to the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) are planning an attack on merchant shipping in the Sulu and Celebes seas, and the group will strike “at any opportune time”, an inter-governmental piracy watchdog has warned.

This warning was issued on 30 October by the Regional Co-operation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP) Information Sharing Centre (ISC), which also keeps track of kidnap-at-sea and oil siphoning cases in the region.

Particularly vulnerable are crew of foreign vessels and businessmen, said ReCAAP, citing information from its sources in the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG). The attackers are likely to be armed with pistols, rifles, and grenade launchers, the body added.

Mariners steaming through the Sulu and Celebes seas, especially in waters off Sabah, have been advised by ReCAAP to exercise extra vigilance when transiting through these areas or where possible, re-route their journeys to avoid this region.

Ship masters and crew in the area have also been told to be on the lookout specifically for unmarked motor-driven sampans, known locally as ‘jungkongs’, with blue and white liveries. These are believed to be the conveyances that will be used by the militants to carry out the attacks.

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