KOTA KINABALU, Sept 23 — Three Indonesian fishermen are believed to have been kidnapped from the waters off Tambisan, near Lahad Datu in Sabah, this afternoon by masked gunmen.
Sabah commissioner of police Datuk Omar Mammah said that the three crew men were on a trawler that was accompanied by another trawler about 50 metres away when they were approached by two pump boats.
At around 11.58am, while the trawlers were fishing for prawns, the suspect’s pump boats approached the two boats from behind and gunmen, dressed in camouflage gear and masks, boarded the two trawlers.
“Four gunmen boarded the first boat and three suspects boarded the second boat. They aimed a gun at the three crew men on one boat and told them to get on the pump boat.
“On the other boat, the suspects took all of the documents and cell phones from the crewmen but did not take any of the four fishermen onboard,” said Omar when contacted.
They then sped off towards the islands of Tawi-Tawi in Philippines.
The three kidnapped victims were aged between 27 and 40 years old.
The incident happened about 7.7 nautical miles from Tambisan in Lahad Datu.
This comes as Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal confirmed the incident, saying the fishermen were likely from Buton, an island off Sulawesi.
“However, we will look into the exact situation. I will get more detailed information on it,” he was quoted as saying by state news agency Bernama while attending Indonesia’s 74th Independence Day reception here.
In the last 18 years, there has been more than 20 kidnapping cases involving Indonesians.
In June earlier this year, 10 Indonesian fishermen were kidnapped off Lahad Datu. Nine were later rescued.
The Indonesian consulate had earlier this month issued a letter of notification warning their citizens of armed groups from southern Philippines looking for kidnapping opportunities in the east coast of Sabah.
The notification is to warn about 300,000 Indonesians nationals in the state to be vigilant and cautious while at sea as their intelligence claimed three Abu Sayyaf groups were reported to have moved into the waters of eastern Sabah on August 30, targeting fishing vessels.