ESSCom chief: Kidnap victims may end up being trafficked again even after being freed

LAHAD DATU, May 4 — All kidnap victims in the east coast of Sabah by groups in Southern Philippines for ransom purposes could end up being trafficked again even after being freed, said Eastern Sabah Security Command commander Datuk Hazani Ghazali.

He said the matter could recur when certain parties, called negotiators, took advantage of the situation to make a profit from the freeing of the victims.

“The victims are kidnapped (by the groups) for the purpose of trafficking, then released (when ransom is paid), but there are certain parties called (freedom) negotiators taking advantage (by asking for additional ransom) we do not deny this,” he said.

He told reporters this after handing over contributions of equipment for roadblock operations to representatives of the district police headquarters in the Eastern Sabah Security Zone (ESSZone) as well as the Malaysian Armed Forces here today.

Hazani said at least five individuals had been identified as heads of the Southern Philippines kidnapping groups, which crossed the Malaysia-Philippine border to kidnap members of the maritime community in the ESSZone.

However, he said, there was no way of knowing the exact number of kidnapping groups as one group might join another based on mutual understanding.

“For these groups, whenever there is a chance to make a profit, they will take it. If there’s a victim, then the kidnapping can occur at any time and ESSCom is making efforts to tighten security to combat this ongoing cross-border crime,” he said. 

Meanwhile, Hazani denied that the five Indonesian fishermen who had been abducted in the waters off Tambisan, Tungku, near here in January had been handed over to a middleman in Jolo, Southern Philippines, saying they were still in the custody of the same group of kidnappers.

The five victims have been identified as Arsyad Dahlan, 41, La Baa, 32, Riswanto Hayano, 27, Edi Lawalopo 53, and Syarizal Kastamiran, 29. — Bernama

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