Armed pi­rates strike again

> Two fish­ing boats at­tacked in La­had Datu and Sem­porna


LA­HAD DATU: South Philip­pine gun­men prey­ing on fish­er­men along the east coast of Sabah struck again on Tues­day, rob­bing the crew of two fish­ing ves­sels and ab­duct­ing a Malaysian skip­per in sep­a­rate in­ci­dents at Sem­porna and La­had Datu.

The pi­rates, who were heav­ily-armed with M16 and M14 as­sault guns and hand­guns, held up 46 mem­bers of the crew in the two in­ci­dents just 30 min­utes apart, with the at­tacks oc­cur­ring about five nau­ti­cal miles from the main­land.

Apart from ab­duct­ing 39year-old Rus­lan@Nasir Arif­fin, the fish­ing boat skip­per and owner of the ves­sel hit in Sem­porna, the gun­men took food items, cell­phones, clothes, doc­u­ments and other valu­ables. Due to en­hanced pa­trols by ma­rine po­lice and the East­ern Sabah Se­cu­rity Com­mand (Ess­com) along the coast­line, the pi­rates are be­lieved to have shifted their fo­cus on tourists, re­sorts, fish farms and other busi­nesses on land as well as tar­get fish­ing ves­sels.

Sabah po­lice com­mis­sioner DCP Datuk Ab­dul Rashid Harun said yes­ter­day both ves­sels were il­le­gally fish­ing in cur­few zones and were not equipped with transpon­ders that en­able au­thor­i­ties to mon­i­tor their move­ments.

“As such, their safety was not un­der the radar of ma­rine po­lice or Ess­com and they could not seek help dur­ing emer­gen­cies,” he said, adding that ex­cept for two Malaysians, the crew were from the Philip­pines and In­done­sia and did not have iden­ti­fi­ca­tion doc­u­ments or work per­mits.

Ab­dul Rashid said po­lice and Ess­com were only no­ti­fied more than two hours af­ter the in­ci­dents. He said in the first case in Sem­porna at 9.30pm, a crew of 27 fish­er­men aged be­tween 18 and 60 were set­ting their nets near Pu­lau Gaya when a speed­boat with six armed men ap­proached their ves­sel.

Four of them boarded the fish­ing boat and held up the crew at gun­point.

Ab­dul Rashid said af­ter re­liev­ing the crew of their valu­ables, the gun­men grabbed Rus­lan, a Malaysian of Su­luk de­scent, and forced him into their speed­boat be­fore flee­ing.

Later, an­other fish­ing boat with a 19-man crew in Tungku, La­had Datu, was also robbed by a group of armed men.

The rob­bers, who are be­lieved to be for­eign­ers, took a five-horse­power boat en­gine, cash, food and other valu­ables be­long­ing to the In­done­sian and Filipino crew. None of the crew, aged be­tween 19 and 50, had work per­mits or pass­ports.

In PUTRAJAYA, Deputy Prime Min­is­ter Datuk Seri Ah­mad Zahid Hamidi yes­ter­day ex­pressed wor­ries over the pos­si­bil­ity that cer­tain quar­ters have been leak­ing in­for­ma­tion on Ess­com se­cu­rity forces op­er­a­tion meth­ods to the ex­tent of caus­ing kid­nap­ping cases to be ram­pant in the area.

Ac­cord­ing to Ber­nama, the deputy prime min­is­ter said such ac­tion would give the en­e­mies am­ple time and space to carry out crim­i­nal acts against the coun­try.

“I am not ac­cus­ing, but ev­ery­thing is pos­si­ble,” he said.

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