SANDAKAN: Screams punctured the air above the usual dinner-time bustle at the Ocean King Seafood Restaurant as four gunmen suddenly made their appearance at the rear of the popular eatery.
It was about 7.45pm on Thursday and the gunmen had landed quietly by a boat at the 12 floating cages where fish were kept before being served.
Garbed in army fatigues, one of the gunmen appeared to be armed with an M16 automatic rifle with bullets slung around his chest while another was seen holding a pistol.
They methodically made their way up a flight of wooden stairs into the seaside restaurant where about 10 tables were occupied - a quiet weekday night.
Ignoring the ensuing bedlam, the four men made their way to the tables and the first one they reached had a single occupant.
Businesswoman Thien Nyuk Fun, 50, the co-owner of the restaurant had just finished dinner with her sons Chung Chin Lung, 31, and Chin Vui, 26.
Joining them for the meal was family friend Chia Chui Foon, 37.
After dinner however, Chin Lung and Chin Vui went to the restaurant to finish their work while Chia went to the toilet.
The gunmen grabbed Thien who initially tried to resist and fell to the floor. One of the gunmen held her tightly.
Restaurant captain Loh Nyuk Len who just came out from the kitchen heard the commotion and saw the struggle between her employer and the gunmen.
“I was confused and scared. I saw the gunmen and people were running out,” said Loh adding that she froze initially before fleeing the restaurant.
A restaurant cook who wanted to be identified as Chin said the unmasked gunmen appeared to know whom they were targeting.
“The gunmen did not say a single word. They just went to grab the people they wanted,” said Chin.
The gunmen meanwhile made their way around the tables and reached the one occupied by Bernard Then Ted Fen, 39, and his wife.
The couple had just arrived in Sandakan earlier from Kuala Lumpur for a three-day visit to this east coast district.
As they tried to flee, the gunmen grabbed Bernard and pushed their two captives down the stairs and into their boat that was tied up near the cages. They then sped off into the night.
It is believed that the gunmen might have had at least one or two accomplices waiting in the speedboat.
Thien’s brother in law Chung Yun Tiam said the raid lasted about a minute.“Everything happened so fast. Now we can only pray that my brother’s wife is safe. We are worried for her,” he said.
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