‘Spotters’ for kidnappers are now abductors themselves, says ESSCom chief

ESSCom commander Datuk Hazani Ghazali addresses a press conference in Sandakan February 23, 2019. — Bernama pic
ESSCom commander Datuk Hazani Ghazali addresses a press conference in Sandakan February 23, 2019. — Bernama pic

LAHAD DATU, Sept 24 — They used to be spotters for kidnappers, but now they themselves have become the abductors in the eastern waters of Sabah.

These spotters were detected last June and, up to now, 11 of them have been shot dead by the security forces in Kunak, Lahad Datu, and Semporna.

“The Eastern Sabah Security Command (ESSCom) is on the hunt for the remnants of these spotters still on the prowl to abduct people and demand ransom,” ESSCom commander Datuk Hazani Ghazali told Bernama in an interview.

Spotters and a kidnapping for ransom group (KFRG) are suspected to have been involved in the abduction of three Indonesian fishermen in the waters of Tambisan, Tungku, yesterday.

“We have identified the KFRG from Tawi-Tawi. Spotters were seen during the incident,” he said. In the incident, which occurred at 11.50am, the three fishermen — Maharudi Lunani, 48, Muhammad Farhan, 27, and Samiun Maneu, 27 — went missing and were believed to have been kidnapped by an armed and masked group in the waters of Tambisan.

The group of kidnappers, aboard two pump boats, reportedly fled to the waters of Tawi-Tawi in the southern Philippines.

Hazani said the spotters, who have hitherto been passing information to the KFRG in the waters of the Eastern Sabah Security Zone (ESSZone), have themselves turned kidnappers.

“These spotters are Filipino illegal immigrants in Sabah and are adept at moving around in the waters of the ESSZone. These spotters will hand over the kidnap victims to the KFRG in Tawi-Tawi in the southern Philippines,” he said.

Hazani said there are four categories of kidnappers in the ESSZone, namely the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) from Jolo, southern Philippines; ASG and KFRG from Tawi-Tawi who enter the ESSZone and resort to abductions; KFRG from Tawi-Tawi who enter the ESSZone and resort to abductions with the help of spotters and spotters who themselves who resort to abductions.

He said two Filipino men who were spotters for a KFRG from Sitangkai, southern Philippines, were shot dead by Malaysian security forces in the waters off Felda Sahabat 2, Tungku, near here on September 3.

“They were on board a vessel during the abduction of 11 Suluk and Pala’u men from Semporna who were abducted on June 18 in the waters of Tambisan near Tawi-Tawi in the southern Philippines. — Bernama

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