At least eight Filipino fishermen were killed after suspected pirates attacked their fishing boat in dangerous waters in the southern Philippines, coast guard officials said.
With 15 crew on board, the fishing boat was reportedly operating off Laud Siromon island when a group of five armed men on a speed boat fired at them.
Coast guard spokesman Commander Armand Balilo said five of the crew members survived the attack by jumping overboard and swam to the island, Reuters said. However, according to Balilo, the remaining two who stayed on the boat were unharmed.
Meanwhile, Associated Press reported, citing Philippine Coast Guard head Commodore Joel Garcia, that seven crew members survived by jumping off the boat, when attackers boarded the fishing boat and tied up eight of other crewmen.
Two of the survivors reported the incident after reaching the land and the coast guard found other five survivors floating near Siromon Island, the report added.
Balilo told media that the Coast Guard consider the incident asa piracy attack, saying that the fishermen would have been taken captive if the attackers were Islamist militants. A military report said officials also looking into other motives including extortion or a conflict between fishing groups.
The latest incident comes as Philippine soldiers fighting to end Islamist militant threats, including the Islamic State-linked Abu Sayyaf group, in the area after more than twenty sailors and tourists were taken captive by militants last year in the Celebes and Sulu seas.
Recently, Philippine Coast Guard rescued a cargo vessel from being hijacked off the waters of Zamboanga after a firefight between the maritime security personnel and the suspected pirates.