KOTA KINABALU, Sept 24 — Chief Minister Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal said that security must be improved at the sea border near Tambisan where the latest kidnapping incident took place last night.
The area is just three nautical miles from international waters and the nearest point to the southern Philippines’ Tawi Tawi islands where militant groups like the Abu Sayyaf are known to reside.
“We cannot take such incidents lightly. They have to beef it up,” said Shafie.
He said he will again ask security forces to reinforce the area with greater presence as a deterrent to groups committing cross border crime.
“I believe the defence system should be based on priorities,” he said, also referring to his proposal for the army brigade to shift from Lok Kawi on the west coast of the state to east coast of Lahad Datu.
Shafie, who is the state security council chairman, also called for more deployment to Sabah’s east coast where cross border crimes threaten the state’s sovereignty and posed dangers to the local fishermen and coastal community.
Tambisan in Lahad Datu district sits at the eastern most point of Sabah and borders the Kinabatangan district that is close to the Tawi Tawi islands.
Last night, seven men clad in masks and armed with AK47 and M16 assault rifles boarded two trawlers in a noon robbery, kidnapping three crewmen while leaving four others behind.
Samiun Maniu, 27, Muhammas Farhan, 27 and Maharudin Lunani, 48, were taken from their trawler and onto the suspect’s pump boat that then headed in the direction of Tawi Tawi.
Sabah police commissioner Datuk Omar Mammah said at a press conference today they have contacted counterparts in the Philippines to get more info on the gunmen, believed to be linked to the notorious Abu Sayyaf group.
He also said that following the incident, they would be looking at reviewing their policy on pump boats, after lifting a ban on them earlier this year.
The ban was enforced by the previous government as it was the vessel of choice for cross border criminal due to its flexibility and speed but it is also commonly used by the local fishing communities to get about and go fishing.
Omar said he would discuss the matter with other security agencies and the community on the ground before making a proposal.
On the security breach, he said that the gunmen took advantage of the broad daylight to evade patrollers that could be seen from afar.
“We also have patrols, many agencies patrol the area, but it is a wide border and the area is far from any security posts. They had set their target and found the holes in our patrols to evade them,” he said.
According to one of the survivor’s account, the suspects spoke in Malay and Suluk. One of the crew who did not get kidnapped, Lautu Raali, was a previous kidnap victim in 2016.
Among the others who escaped this kidnap incident were two locals holding MyKads. Police said that they did not know the motive behind the chosen victims.