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Saturday August 5, 2006

Cops storm Pulau Gaya, clash leaves one dead, four injured


KOTA KINABALU: Police mounted a massive mop-up operation for drug suspects on Pulau Gaya – a stilt-house settlement of fishermen and low-income earners off the city’s coast – following a clash that left three marine policemen critically injured. 

A suspected drug pusher in his 30s was shot dead while another man, also in his 30s, was wounded while fighting off the policemen in the shallow waters of the island in the early morning drama. 

UNDER INVESTIGATION: Pulau Gaya residents waiting in front of the Sabah marine police office in Kota Kinabalu yesterday.
In an immediate follow-up, teams of battle-ready policemen with M16 rifles rushed on speedboats to the island where the mop-up operation was conducted. 

The police recovered two parangs and drug packaging paraphernalia.  

“We are increasing our manpower for a larger scale operation to hunt down accomplices of the drug suspects,” Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Mangsor Ismail told reporters later. 

He declined to reveal the identities of the injured policemen. 

The identities of the dead and injured suspects were not immediately available but police believe they were of Suluk origin, an indigenous Filipino group.  

“As yet, we cannot tell if they are Malaysians or illegal immigrants or those holding IMM13 refugee documents,” said Mangsor.  

He said the three injured police officers – a chief inspector, a lance corporal and a constable – were in serious but stable condition at Queen Elizabeth Hospital here. 

General Operations Force personnel lining up to board boats heading for Pulau Gaya, off Kota Kinabalu in Sabah, Friday.
The wounded drug suspect is also in serious condition in the hospital. 

Giving details of the shooting on the island during a 10-minute boat ride there, Mangsor said a police team in civilian clothes landed at a jetty in Kampung Pondo at 10.35am. 

The village is one of several settlements of wooden houses on stilts in the 1,465ha Pulau Gaya, with a population of at least 8,000. 

The police team had gone there to look for “two or three” drug suspects in a follow-up operation to a July 25 drug bust in which four people were arrested while packing the synthetic drug syabu. 

While the cops were walking along a narrow wooden platform in between houses, Mangsor said, two men armed with parangs charged at them. 

“The two suspects slashed the chief inspector, who was in the front,” he said, adding that this resulted in the other policemen falling into the sea. 

Mangsor said the suspects jumped into the shallow waters and continued to swing their parangs at the cops. 

During the struggle in the water between the cops and the suspects, two policemen fired several shots which hit the suspects. 

Mangsor said one of the police officers radioed the command base for reinforcements and the injured were taken to the hospital. 

At about 2.30pm, journalists who were stopped from taking a boat from the Kota Kinabalu jetty to Kampung Pondo, saw the body of the dead suspect wrapped in a black plastic bag being taken to the mortuary in a boat . 

Described as a “black area”, Kampung Pondo was initially a settlement for refugees from the southern Philippines in the 1970s but it slowly became a squatter colony where many criminals found a convenient hideout. 

Over the years, police have conducted raids to flush out criminals involved in offences ranging from drug dealing to smuggling of cigarettes.  

The state later relocated a good number of legally documented immigrants to the mainland. 

So far this year, police have arrested 25 people in 30 drug-related cases, the latest being the arrest of four men for possessing syabu on July 25.  

Related Stories:
A home away from home for many Filipinos
 

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