KOTA KINABALU: A midnight boat ride across the Sulu Sea ended nearly eight months of captivity for marine police Konst Zakiah Aleip.
A team of Special Branch policemen in a high-powered speedboat picked Zakiah from the seaside township of Indanan in Jolo Island at 11pm on Friday.
They sped across the Sulu Sea and Zakiah tasted freedom in the east coast Sandakan town when they arrived there at about 7.30am yesterday.
Looking tired but smiling, Zakiah was brought to meet Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman at his house at Kampung Sungai Kayu about 15km from Sandakan town an hour later. He was clad in a long-sleeved grey t-shirt and camouflage trousers.
Zakiah was with Musa for about 30 minutes before the Chief Minister officially announced the policeman’s release to the media.
The 26-year-old policeman told reporters that he was very happy to be back and thanked the Government, as well as his fellow policemen, especially those from the Special Branch who were involved in securing his release.
“Praise to God, I am just so relieved and happy to be free at last,” he said.
Zakiah did not, however, relate his experience while being held captive by Abu Sayyaf gunmen in mountainous jungles following his abduction from Pulau Mabul on July 12 last year.
Musa, meanwhile, said he had informed Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak about Zakiah’s release.
Zakiah’s freedom was made possible through continuous negotiations with his captors, he added.
Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Jalaluddin Abdul Rahman said a police team had left the state for Jolo at 2.30pm on Friday to bring Zakiah back.
He said the team brought Zakiah out of the Indanan municipality in Jolo Island about an hour before midnight. A team of policemen escorted Zakiah on a MASwings flight that arrived in Kota Kinabalu at 1.30pm.
He was whisked from the Kota Kinabalu International Airport and taken to an undisclosed location to meet his family and be debriefed by security officials.
Jalaluddin declined to say where Zakiah had been taken to.
Zakiah’s colleague Kpl Ab Rajah Jamuan, 32, was killed in the July 12 incident.
Home Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said Zakiah looked lethargic and would not be rushed back to work.
“We will arrange for a psychology expert to evaluate his condition to make sure he is not traumatised and to determine when he can start work again,” he said.
“I have also spoken to Jalaluddin to have him transferred to another unit,” he added.
Timeline of Zakiah Aleip's capture by Filipino gunmen
JULY 12, 2014
Eight suspected Abu Sayyaf gunmen attack the marine police unit at Pulau Mabul, Semporna, at 11.10pm. Kpl Ab Rajah Jamuan, 32, is killed while Konst Zakiah Aleip, 26, is abducted. Militant leaders Alhabsi Misaya and Apo Kahumbo are suspected of being linked to the attack.
JULY 14, 2014
Gunmen allow Zakiah to call his wife Sharifah Erna Berson for the first time at about 9pm.
JULY 18, 2014
The Star reports police as saying that Zakiah is held under heavy guard in a jungle hideout near Indanan, 18km from Jolo, Philippines. Other reports claim that the kidnappers have asked for a RM10mil ransom.
AUG 26, 2014
Apo Kahumbo is arrested by Filipino security forces in Tawi-Tawi, Philippines. He is killed by Filipino police on Aug 29 while purportedly trying to escape.
SEPT 20, 2014
Sabah police say Zakiah has been in constant contact with his parents and his wife. Last contact made on Sept 19.
NOV 30, 2014
Known cross-border kidnapper Nikson Muktadir arrested by Malaysian police off Pulau Bohayan, Semporna.
FIRST WEEK OF DECEMBER 2014
Negotiations over Zakiah's release nearly end in a gunfight between his captors and those seeking his release.
JAN 7, 2015
Filipino activists say Zakiah was suffering from malaria and diarrhoea, and had been bedridden for five days. Sabah police dispute this, say he is healthy.
MARCH 6, 2015
Zakiah is released by kidnappers at 2.30pm.