The fate of 23 of 36 sailors aboard the fishing vessel KM Mina Sejati remains unclear after an incident in the Aru Sea, Maluku on Saturday, which left several crewmen injured and two dead. Among the 23 are three sailors who are believed to have attacked their fellow crewmen with machetes as they slept. In all 11 men are believed to have survived the attack.

The Navy believes at least seven are dead but so far only two bodies have been recovered, kompas.com reported on Thursday.

“Several sailors died instantly in their sleep and others died after succumbing to stab wounds,” said commander of Aru Navy base, Lt. Col. Suharto Silaban, based on reports by survivors.

One survivor saw the bodies of his fellow crewmen after being woken by a loud noise, he then witnessed the three suspects slashing the rest of the crewmen with machetes. Several crew members jumped over board to escape the attack.

Suharto said that of the seven thought to have died, five are believed to have died instantly on board while two died from injuries while attempting to swim to the nearby ship KM Gemilang Samudera, which was attempting to rescue the fleeing crewmen.

Navy spokesperson First Admiral Mohammad Zaenal said the suspects’ motive was still unknown and difficult to determine as they were still missing.

“We’re not sure of their reason for committing the attacks. We are prioritizing the search for the missing sailors,” said Mohammad.

Aru Islands Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Adolof Bormasa believed that there was some sort of dispute among the crewmen.

“We think that there might have been personal issues with some of the sailors. However, we cannot confirm this at this point,” said Adolof on Sunday.

The Navy believes that the three culprits committed suicide after murdering their fellow crewmen. (bry)