On 1st April 2016, a distress call was received from a Malaysian tugboat in the waters off Ligitan islands. Of the crew of 9 men, 4 men, all Malaysians from Sibu, Sarawak were taken hostage by the group believed likely to be Abu Sayyaf.
Emergency response were swift. But the kidnappers had left Malaysian waters. The first responders were baffled. Why choose an unguarded route when the Sandakan - Tawi-Tawi route is well protected? (The area they were taken was near to the border meeting point between Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines.