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Thursday August 29, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Thursday August 29, 2013 MYT 6:53:03 AM
by ruben sario
KOTA KINABALU: Police are hot on the heels of a group of armed gunmen who abducted nine fishermen from Semporna before releasing them several hours later.
Sabah police commissioner, Datuk Hamza Taib said a massive search has been mounted by the Marine Police, the Police Field Force and the Malaysia Maritime Enforcement Agency.
He said the police were also trying to determine where the gunmen came from.
In the incident near Pulau Mabul, off Semporna in Sabah’s east coast, a fisherman was hauling in his catch when the gunmen in a speedboat ordered him to board their vessel at about 6.30pm on Tuesday.
Garbed in dark clothes and armed with shotguns and pistols, the gunmen numbering about 20 told the fisherman to guide them towards Pulau Mabul, which is home to several resorts.
On approaching the island, the gunmen spotted some red lights on the shore and the fisherman told them those might indicate the location of a resort.
As they got close, however, the gunmen realised it was a military camp and quickly turned their vessel towards Filipino waters.
The gunmen later spotted another fishing boat with eight men on board, and abducted them too.
One of the gunmen asked the nine fishermen what their race and religion were and when told that they were all Suluk and Muslims, the gunmen brought them close to another fishing vessel and ordered them to jump into the sea.
The fishermen then swam towards the fishing vessel and reported the incident to the police in Semporna.
According to Sabah criminal investigation department chief Senior Asst Comm Omar Mammah, it was likely the gunmen released the fishermen as they realised they could not get any ransom from them.
“Based on accounts given by the fishermen, we believe the gunmen felt the fishermen were like kin as they were also from the Suluk community,” said Omar, who added that the police were still trying to determine the types of weapons used by the gunmen.
However, Eastern Sabah Security Command (ESSCOM) director-general Datuk Mohamad Mantek denied that it was a kidnapping case.
“They (the fishermen) were not kidnapped but detained and released within 24 hours. Nothing untoward happened,” he said when interviewed by Bernama.
He also said that the group had no links to the Sulu army.
In April 2000, 21 foreign tourists and Malaysian workers were kidnapped from a resort in Pulau Sipadan before being released six months later in southern Philippines.
Shortly after that, three Malaysian resort workers were abducted from Pulau Pandanan and released after a shootout between Abu Sayyaf gunmen and the Philippines military on Jolo island.
Tags / Keywords:
Courts & Crime, gunmen, fishermen, Semporno, Pulau Mabuloff
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