KOTA KINABALU, June 19 ― The authorities are treating the armed abduction of 10 Bajau Laut fishermen off Lahad Datu on the Sabah east coast as a kidnap-for-ransom despite not receiving any notice from the gunmen.
Sabah police commissioner Datuk Omar Mammah believes the abductors are likely linked to the Abu Sayyaf militants based in the south Philippines who have stepped up incursions into Malaysian waters looking for hostages.
“We have yet to receive any calls from the suspects so we are not sure the exact motive of this abduction though we highly suspect it is for ransom,” he said today.
He said that fishermen are usually not targets of kidnap-for-ransom (KFR) groups, unlike the tourists and businessmen whom the Abu Sayyaf have taken from Sabah previously as hostages.
But he said the abductors can still demand ransom from the fishermen’s employers or from the victims’ kin.
“There are a few groups of KFR and for now, those active are targeting fishermen and boat owners,” he said.
The families of the 10 fishermen have been informed of the abduction which took place at about 2am yesterday.
The 10 men were part of a crew of 16 on two fishing boats owned by Sabahans heading towards the town of Semporna during curfew hours when their vessels were hijacked by the unknown gunmen who were then said to have fled towards Sitangkai island on the Philippines side of the border.