The four were taken at gunpoint on Friday evening and brought by speed boat to the southern Philippines, the Philippine Daily Inquirer said, quoting an unnamed military official. Three other crew were left behind.
The gunmen, suspected to be Abu Sayyaf militants, also took laptops, mobile phones and unspecified amounts of cash. The tugboat returned to Sabah when the gunmen left.
“We confirm receiving reports of this incident,” military spokesman Major Filemon Tan told reporters. “We have coordinated with our Malaysian counterparts.”
It was the second attack in a week on tugboats in the waters that border of Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines. Ten Indonesians were abducted when a Taiwanese tugboat was intercepted in the southern Philippines.
The Abu Sayyaf, known for kidnappings, beheadings, bombings and extortion, has demanded 50 million pesos ($1.09 million) for the freedom of the Indonesian crew. The al Qaeda-linked group is one of the most hardline Islamist militant groups in the Muslim south of the largely Christian Philippines. (Courtesy Reuters)