Police believe Filipino group raided Sabah twice in same night

File photo showing fishing trawlers in Semporna. — Picture by Julia Chan
File photo showing fishing trawlers in Semporna. — Picture by Julia Chan

KOTA KINABALU, Sept 28  — Armed Filipino incursions into Sabah are worsening, with state police saying they received information that one such group were involved in two separate incidents within half an hour of each other yesterday.

Sabah police commissioner Datuk Abdul Rashid Harun said that the group first raided a fishing vessel in Semporna and abducted its skipper at 9.30pm, before robbing another trawler in Lahad Datu on their way back into international waters.

“We believe it is the same group of people based on witness accounts,” he said, adding that they spoke in a Suluk accent.

In the first incident, six individuals reportedly armed with M16 and M14 assault rifles and a pistol had approached the fishing boat and accompanying trawler that were near Gaya island in Semporna.

Four of the men boarded the boat and took its owner-skipper Ruslan Nasir Sarapin, 39 along with valuables and personal documents belonging to the other 26 crew members.

“The kidnappers were travelling in a high-powered white speedboat that had green and yellow stripes on it and fitted with two 75hp engines,” said Abdul Rashid.

Authorities later received a second call informing them of a robbery at sea, some five nautical miles north of the first incident, this time on a 19-man fishing trawler in Tungku, Lahad Datu,

The hijackers also boarded the boat and ransacked the crew’s belongings, taking a 15hp engine, RM300, rice, cooking oil, clothes, cell phones and walkie-talkies before speeding off towards international waters.

Not one of the 19 crew — eight Indonesians with expired work passes and 11 undocumented Pala’u individuals — in the second incident were taken.

“The crew onboard this trawler said that there were seven people on board (the speedboat), so we believe it may have been the kidnapped victim from the first incident,” said Abdul Rashid, who declined to speculate whether it was a targeted robbery or crime of opportunity.

He stressed that neither boats raided had permits to be in the waters during curfew hours nor did they install the automated identification system or proper communication tools.

“Such tools will go a long way for us to help assist fishing boats in trouble at sea,” he said.

No ransom has been demanded yet for Ruslan, also known as Haji Nasir.

This is the sixth abduction incident recorded in Sabah this year, five of which happened within the last three months.

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