KOTA KINABALU, Jan 8 — The Malaysian authorities are now biding their time in the rescue of kidnapped marine cop Kons Zakiah Aliep, Sabah police said today, after a failed attempt last month.
State police commissioner Datuk Jalaluddin Abdul Rahman said negotiations for the simultaneous release of Zakiah and Kunak-based fish breeder Chan Sai Chuin hit a snag when Philippines security forces launched an operation targeting the groups on the Southern Philippine island of Jolo.
“Kons Zakiah, being held by another group, was taken further into hiding, or else we would have brought him back with Chan last month,” said Jalaluddin.
The 32-year-old Perak born Chan was kidnapped by armed terrorists from his fish farm in Kunak on June 16 and was released after a six-month ordeal on December 11.
Zakiah was abducted while on duty at Mabul Water Bungalows Resort on Mabul island, off Semporna district, on July 12 last year. His colleague, Kol Ab Rajah Jamuan was killed during the attack.
Jalaluddin said the authorities are waiting for the situation in Jolo to normalise before making their next move to secure Zakiah’s release.
“We have to be sure he is kept safe, as the KFR (kidnap-for-ransom) groups are feeling threatened by Philippine army and security and we do not want to endanger his life. This is why its taking more time,” he said.
Jalaluddin told reporters that police have changed their approach slightly by minimising contact between 26-year-old Zakiah and his captors and his wife, Sharifah Erna Benson recently.
“There has been too much interference from other groups and we don’t want other groups to take advantage, or else we get cheated. It is better to be silent and then quietly retrieve him.
“So meanwhile we have minimised communication between them (Zakiah and his wife),” he said, adding that the couple last spoke to each other in December.
It was earlier reported that captors would repeatedly harass Chan and Zakiah’s wife for ransom, or they would behead them.
Meanwhile, news portal The Star Online reported that Zakiah may be facing serious health problems under his captors in Jolo.
Quoting Anti-kidnapping activist Prof Octavio Dinampo, it was reported that Zakiah was suffering from malaria and has been bedridden for about five days without seeing a doctor.
The report said no doctor would visit the Abu Sayyaf hideouts and Zakiah had been moved at least twice over the past several weeks to avoid detection by Philippine security forces.