KOTA KINABALU: Family links across the border have helped a kidnapped fishing boat owner return home within 70 hours.
Ruslan Saripin turned up unscathed at the Lahad Datu jetty after he was brought back by a relative at 7am yesterday. He was abducted off Pulau Gaya in Semporna at about 10.50pm on Tuesday.
Apparently, Ruslan, a local of Bajau-Suluk mix, had help from family members living in the southern Philippine chain islands of Tawi Tawi, close to the sea borders of Lahad Datu and Semporna.
Relatives apparently worked towards securing his release though it could not be immediately established if any ransom was paid.
When contacted yesterday, Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Abdul Rashid Harun said the case was different from the other cross-border kidnap cases whereby victims were whisked straight to the Abu Sayyaf stronghold of Jolo island in southern Philippines.
“It looks like they were very close to our border. I cannot say anything right now as we need to talk to Ruslan on all aspects.
“My men will take some time as we need to know many things,” Abdul Rashid said.
He said Ruslan had families across the border which might have played a role in his release.
It is learnt that after recording his statement, police allowed him to return home and be reunited with his family.
Ruslan, a father of five children, is owner of two fishing trawlers. His brother helps in the business.
Ruslan was the skipper of the boat when he was snatched by six people who were armed with M16 and M14 rifles.
Ruslan and his crew were fishing in waters off Pulau Gaya in Semporna waters when pirates struck.
The gunmen then went on to rob another fishing vessel in Tungku waters, off Lahad Datu, before fleeing to Tawi Tawi.
Philippine intelligence sources suspect that small localised group with familiarity to Semporna and Lahad Datu waters might be behind Tuesday’s double kidnap and piracy cases.
This is because the main Abu Sayyaf leaders were pinned down by military operations in Jolo.
The suspicion is that the group might also be responsible for the kidnapping of three Filipino fishermen within the high security waters off Pulau Pom Pom in Semporna on Sept 10.