Three gunmen shot dead during kidnapping attempt in Sabah waters

Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Abdul Rashid Harun (left) has confirmed that there was a shootout between security forces and the armed group yesterday. ― Picture by Julia Chan
Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Abdul Rashid Harun (left) has confirmed that there was a shootout between security forces and the armed group yesterday. ― Picture by Julia Chan

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SEMPORNA, Dec 9 ― Security forces are believed to have shot dead three of five abductors from the southern Philippines who kidnapped a man in the Merabung-Bakapit waters off Lahad Datu.

It is learnt that the two other gunmen were arrested and the kidnap victim freed during the clash at 9.51am yesterday.

A security personnel from the 14th Battalion General Operations Force is believed to have been shot in a leg.

Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Abd Rashid Harun has scheduled a press conference for 10.30am today to explain what happened.

Relating what happened, Abdul Rashid said the seven abductors who came in a boat abducted the skipper of a fishing vessel, in his 30s, in the Bekapit waters in Lahad Datu.

“The abductors destroyed the telecommunications equipment on board the fishing vessel and proceeded towards Semporna waters.

“They then came across another fishing vessel but were only able to take the outboard engine as all the fishermen on board jumped into the sea to escape abduction,” he said.

He said the abductors came across another boat and kidnapped the skipper, also in his 30s.

Abdul Rashid said the abductors then came across another fishing vessel, unaware that on board was a Tiger Platoon unit of the GOF that was conducting the “Op Coral” operation in Pulau Gaya waters.  The head of the security forces unit spotted the abductors and the heavy firearms they were carrying, with one of them having ammunition strapped around his body, he said.

“He shouted 'POLICE' and the abductors opened fire. The security forces personnel returned fire in defence and a shootout ensued for one minute and the abductors' boat began to sink slowly,” he said.

The security forces personnel went on board the sinking boat and found three abductors dead and arrested two others, he said, adding that they also found one of the captives safe.

“Two other abductors and a captive are missing. We are looking for them,” he said.

Abdul Rashid said one of the security forces personnel, a lance corporal, was injured in the right leg during the shootout and had been sent to hospital.

Bernama found out later that the policeman from Sarawak is in stable condition.

Abdul Rashid advised people on the nearby islands who happened to come across any suspicious men with someone who may look like a captive to report to the nearest police station. 

He also said that the “Op Coral” exercise was a special operation undertaken in September to fight crime in the nation's waters and provide security on the islands.

“The success against the abductors can be attributed to the cooperation with ESSCom (Eastern Sabah Security Command) where the Malaysian Armed Forces, police and Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency are represented,” he said.

At a hospital here, the injured Sarawak lance corporal said he did not realise he had been shot until after the shootout.

“I did not feel any pain but after the shootout my leg went numb and I had to bandage the wound,” he said.

He said he was grateful that all his colleagues were safe and that the abduction for ransom was foiled. ― Bernama

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