Esscom won’t let its guard down again

  • Nation
  • Thursday, 26 Sep 2019

KOTA KINABALU: It’s a game of cat and mouse for law enforcers securing waters off Sabah’s eastern-most tip of Tambisan, which has remained volatile in keeping Filipino kidnap-for-ransom groups at bay.

Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) commander Datuk Huzani Ghazali said armed intruders were constantly watching Malaysian security movements in the area and seized opportunity the moment there was a security vacuum.

He said the latest kidnapping of three Indonesian crewmen of a fishing trawler in Tambisan at noon on Monday happened just after they withdrew one of the marine police’s “mother ships” anchored in Lahad Datu’s Tambisan waters bordering the Philippine Tawi-Tawi chain of islands.

“They moved in just after we pulled back our vessel that needed repairs, ” he said, referring to the Abu Sayyaf-linked kidnap-for-ransom group that struck two Malaysian fishing boats and took the three crewmen.

“We believe that the kidnap groups have spotters on our side who inform them of our movements.

“We are identifying the spotters and will act against them soon, ” he said when contacted yesterday.

He said two marine police boats were now anchored on the sea border areas of Tambisan.

Esscom, he said, was monitoring intelligence information of the kidnap group’s movements within the Tawi-Tawi islands.

He believed that the group had struck when they were tipped off by their spotters about a brief security vacuum.

These spotters were detected last June and, up to now, 11 of them have been reportedly shot dead by the security forces in Kunak, Lahad Datu and Semporna.

Huzani said he would be suggesting to the Armed Forces to place the navy’s auxiliary ship KA Tun Azizan in the Tambisan waters off Lahad Datu – an area prone to security breaches.

The State Security Council chaired by Chief Minister Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal is expected to meet later this week and discuss the latest incident among other security issues.

Seven gunmen, believed to be linked to the notorious Jolo-based Abu Sayyaf group, abducted Indonesians Samiun Maniu, 27, Maharuydin Lunani, 48, and Muhammas Farhan, 27, before crossing back into the Philippines.

Their whereabouts remain unknown, though intelligence officials expect them to head to the Abu Sayyaf hideout in Jolo.

The gunmen, however, only robbed four other fishermen in the first boat after realising that one of them was a former hostage who had spent 14 months in the Abu Sayyaf following his abduction in 2016.

They abducted the three Indonesians from the second boat.

Esscom has tightened security around sensitive areas, including resorts in the east coast. The militant groups have resorted to taking fishermen and tugboat crews moving close to the sea border since 2015.

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