KOTA KINABALU, June 18 — Ten Bajau Laut (Sea Gypsies) fishermen have been kidnapped, believed to be by armed men linked to the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group, in Lahad Datu waters early today.
Sabah Datuk police commissioner Datuk Omar Mammah said the 10, aged from 17 to 60 years, did not have personal identity documents and only had the Lepa-lepa letter to live in this country.
"All of them were brought to a neighbouring country (the (Philippines) by the kidnappers,” he said when contacted by Bernama.
He said they were among 16 fishermen in two boats heading from Lahad Datu to Semporna when they were intercepted by the kidnappers off Felda Sahabat 9 at about 2am.
The other six managed to escape, he said.
They were believed to have been brought to Sitangkai Island in the southern Philippines, a 15-minute boat journey from Tambisan, Lahad Datu.
Omar said police had opened an investigation paper on the incident and taken statements for the six who escaped and had made fotofits of the kidnappers.
He said following the incident, the Marine Operations Force and General Operations Force along with other security forces had stepped up patrols in the east coast of Sabah, in particular Lahad Datu waters.
Last week, Inspector-General of Police Datuk Seri Abdul Hamid Bador in an interview with Bernama had said that the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group, believed to be based in Jolo, Sulu in the southern Philippines, still posed a threat to Sabah’s eastern seaboard.
Earlier today, Eastern Sabah Security Command (ESSCom) Datuk Hazani Ghazali had said ESSCom had yet to receive any reports on claims that 10 Filipino fishermen were kidnapped in Sabah waters in the early hours of today.
Several media outlets today had reported that the 10 were abducted in waters near the Tawi-Tawi islands in the southern Philippines.
The media reports said that armed men linked to the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group who came in two boats kidnapped the 10 fishermen who were also in two boats along the sea route from Tambisan to Semporna, at about 2am today.
Meanwhile, Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal when asked about the matter said the Sabah government had proposed to the security authorities at the federal level to set up a military camp at a suitable location in the Eastern Sabah Security Zone (ESSZone).
Mohd Shafie, who is also the chairman of the Sabah Security Committee, said the proposal was part of efforts to further beef up security in the area for the safety of the people there, especially from cross-border crimes, including kidnappings.
The chief minister said this when approached by reporters after attending the forum “New Sabah: New Challenges, New Realities and New Opportunities” here, which was jointly organised by the Sabah Institute of Development Studies and the Kingsley Strategic Institute. — Bernama