KOTA KINABALU: Sabah police are trying to ascertain if a kidnap for ransom group or pirates were involved in the shooting of a fishing trawler in the waters off Sabah's Kinabatangan.
Sabah deputy police commissioner Datuk Razarudin Husain said, however, that police do not believe that the gunmen in black fatigues, who shot at the trawler on Thursday (Feb 22), were linked to militants.
"We suspect that it could have been 'sea robbers' or a kidnap for ransom group from the neighbouring islands. We are still investigating," he told reporters at the Kepayan police headquarters here on Saturday.
The incident occurred 11 nautical miles from Kuala Segama in eastern Sabah, close to the southern Philippine island of Taganak.
According to Kinabatangan police chief Supt Sahat Rahmat, five gunmen in a pump boat had approached the fishermen, who were reeling in their fishing nets, at about 4.30pm on Thursday.
It is understood that the 48-year-old skipper and his four crew men, aged between 19 and 40, were signalled by the gunmen to stop.
"As they (gunmen) came about eight metres alongside the trawler, a crew member saw one of the gunmen ordering them to stop while another gunman raised a long gun and fired a shot at the boat," Supt Sahat said, adding that the crew had then fled to hide in the engine room.
The gunmen then moved towards the front of the boat and fired twice at the roof before moving to the rear of the trawler and continuing to shoot.
The trawler's skipper then cut off the boat's fishing nets and sped the vessel back towards Sandakan while the gunmen, who continued firing, stopped their pursuit and sailed away.
None of the crew were hurt in the incident. However, the trawler was slightly damaged from the gunshots.