KOTA KINABALU, Dec 6 — Sabah police chief Datuk Omar Mammah has confirmed that armed pirates tried to hijack a tugboat near Kinabatangan yesterday evening and injured the boat’s skipper before getting away.
He said in the incident at Pegasus reef at 6.30pm yesterday, four masked suspects, armed with M16s, stormed the Magtrans II tugboat, carrying 13 crew members.
“The suspects fired shots at the boat twice, with one bullet hitting the skipper, Didy Saviady, on his left thigh. The crew scrambled and took shelter inside the boat, locking the doors while the suspects boarded the boat.
“However, one of the crew, on the third floor of the boat, fired about 10 shots from flare guns at the suspects, causing them to panic and flee by diving into the water and getting to their boat before speeding away,” said Omar in a statement today.
The suspects were travelling in a four-engine powered boat. Police have yet to identify the suspects.
The tug boat, owned by Bintulu-based Syarikat Juanah Inovative Sdn Bhd, was travelling to Papua New Guinea to pick up timber when it was stopped in Sabah’s waters.
Marine police, answering their distress calls, arrived at the scene to investigate and take the injured victim to Lahad Datu Hospital for treatment.
Omar said the case is being investigated under Section 3 of the Firearms (Increased Penalties) Act 1971 for discharging a firearm.
The police are also trying to ascertain if the suspects later robbed another vessel.
Sabah’s east coast has suffered from piracy and cross-border crime over the years, resulting in a dusk-to-dawn curfew.
The curfew has managed to curb the kidnapping of tourists from popular islands but pirates have now turned their attention to fishing vessels.