LAHAD DATU: Security forces, including marine police, had pursued the five gunmen who abducted Chinese fish farm manager Yang Zai Lin (pic) before the kidnappers gave them the slip.
Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Hamza Taib said security personnel had attempted to intercept the boat used by the kidnappers when shots were exchanged near Pulau Mataking.
“The kidnappers from the southern Philippines successfully evaded capture in international waters after reaching Sibutu island in the Philippines,” he said during a press conference on Tuesday.
Hamza said the victim, from Guangzhao, China, was abducted from the Wonderful Terrace Fish Farm on Pulau Baik, at about 2.45am Tuesday.
“We believe this is also a case of kidnap for ransom,” he added.
Hamza said that 19 of the farm workers had been detained for questioning as police were not ruling out “inside help”.
He said police were still trying to identify the group involved in the latest kidnapping.
He said four of the gunmen are believed to be between the ages of 30 and 40 while the fifth was believed to be about 50 years of age.
Yang’s abduction is the second recent kidnapping of a Chinese national in the area. Last month, Chinese tourist Gao Huayun, 29, and Filipina resort worker Marcy Dayawan, 40, were seized from a resort in Sabah.
The string of violence highlights the security challenges Malaysia faces in the area, after last year’s Lahad Datu intrusion.
The eastern part of Sabah has seen several kidnappings despite increased security.
The Abu Sayyaf militant group in the southern Philippines have only a few hundred gunmen, but have been blamed for the worst terror attacks in the country’s history, including bombings and kidnappings.
The group was set up in the 1990s, reportedly with seed money from Al-Qaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden.
Last November, suspected Abu Sayyaf gunmen kidnapped a Taiwanese couple holidaying in Pom-Pom Island.
The husband was killed during the abduction. His wife was freed after being held for 36 days on the main Sulu island of Jolo. A ransom was believed to have been paid.
Chinese national feared kidnapped from fish farm by gunmen in Lahad Datu
Gunmen flee to southern Philippines after kidnapping Chinese national