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Monday June 23, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Monday June 23, 2014 MYT 11:44:07 AM
by pk katharason, muguntan vanar, ruben sario, stephanie lee, AND philip golingai
LAHAD DATU: “They have better intel than us. They know where our assets are located. They are already inside (Sabah). We believe they have inside help.”
These were the grim words of a security expert based in the east coast of Sabah as he reflected on the southern-Philippines based kidnap-for-ransom group, which has abducted six hostages.
A Malaysian fish breeder, two Chinese nationals, a Taiwanese tourist and two Filipina workers have been abducted from two resorts in Semporna waters and fish farms in Kunak and Lahad Datu over the past seven months.
In the wake of a probe by The Star on the cross border kidnappings, the expert said there were “enemies” from within Sabah aiding a kidnap-for-ransom group.
The expert, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said it appeared that the group even knew the movements of the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) which acts as the coastguard.
Citing the Singamata abduction, he said the group knew that the MMEA patrol boat had arrived at the resort, which is located on a reef, at about 9pm and left an hour later to patrol other resorts in Semporna waters.
“Minutes after the patrol boat left, the group struck. How did they know the precise times?” he asked.
Another expert, a retired intelligence officer in Semporna, said the group did not come directly from the Philippines to commit kidnapping.
“They are already here. They have inside people here to tell them how to get to the targets.”
Citing the Singamata abduction as his “case study”, he said to enter the resort, one would need inside information on how to navigate a pump boat through a shallow water maze cordoned with ropes.
The retired officer said the kidnap-for-ransom group would enter the area a few days before striking at a target and stay in houses owned or rented by relatives or friends.
“There are many water villages in Semporna where they can hide,” he said.
Initial investigations into the kidnapping of fish farm manager Yang Zai Lin, a 34-year-old Chinese national who was abducted in Pulau Baik in Silam, Lahad Datu, on May 6, showed that someone living in the water villages close to Wonderful Terrace Sdn Bhd fish farm was involved.
The security expert said police believe that a local or a Filipino who had been living in the east coast for a long period was part of the armed group which abducted Yang.
He said investigations revealed that the five armed men initially spoke in Bajau (a community that lives in Sabah and southern Philippines) but were later heard speaking in fluent Bahasa Malaysia.
The expert concurred with the retired officer’s view that there could be some sort of collusion between the group and “bad apples” within the security forces.
“Investigations revealed that the marine police were told about the kidnapping in Singamata but they only reacted an hour later,” he said, adding that the group could have had inside information.
Several water villages serve as hideouts for kidnap group
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