Two fishermen kidnapped
Published on: Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Kota Kinabalu: Kidnappers have struck again in the State's East Coast, this time abducting two Indonesian fishermen, in waters off Semporna's Pulau Gaya early Tuesday.Acting Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Omar Mammah (pic) said the victims, both men in their 30s, were with two other fishermen and had just docked on Pulau Gaya when they were approached by a pump boat.

The abductors spoke in Suluk are believed armed with M16, according to one of the crew who was hiding with another in a compartment in front of the boat.

"The crew said the suspects were clad in dark clothing and wearing face masks when the incident occurred at about 12.30am," Omar told reporters at the Ma'al Hijrah celebration, here, Tuesday morning.

"When the two crew members came out from hiding, they found their 40-year-old skipper, identified as Samsul Saguni, and 35-year-old assistant, Usman Yunus, missing. One of the hiding crew then lodged a report about missing co-workers.

"We have taken a statement from the witness and are investigating the case," said Omar, adding that they were also checking whether the suspects belong to a kidnap-for ransom group.

Omar also said this was the first kidnapping incident in Sabah this year, adding the fishing boat had a licence to operate within the curfew hours in the Eastern Sabah Security Zone (Esszone).

"There have been no demands made for any ransom yet. We are not sure if the kidnapped fishermen are still in the country… investigations are ongoing," he said.

Sabah's 6pm to 6am sea curfew, first imposed four years ago, was extended to Sept 13 and covers areas up to three nautical miles off Tawau, Semporna, Kunak, Lahad Datu, Kinabatangan, Sandakan and Beluran.

Sabah's East Coast used to be a major target for kidnap-for-ransom groups who found it lucrative to abduct tourists from the many islands.

Tourism took a dive from 2013 onwards following a spate of tourist kidnappings, but incidences have reduced following the introduction of a curfew from 6pm to 6am four years ago.

Since then, the kidnappers have set their sights on fishing trawlers, usually at the borders of international waters.

Meanwhile, one of the fishermen who escaped being kidnapped revealed how he hid underneath a pile of plywood and gunnysacks after the armed men boarded their boat.

The man, who only wished to be identified as Bakri, said he was resting in his makeshift quarters, which was used to store the ship's anchor, when he noticed a pump boat closing in on their vessel shortly after midnight.

"I felt something amiss when the lights on the pump boat were suddenly switched off when it was almost nearing our boat," he said.

Not long after that, he said, two men who he believed to be armed and wearing masks got onto their boat.

"I immediately went under a pile of plywood and also managed to get some gunnysacks to cover over it.

"I feared for my life as this was the first time I went through such an experience. My only thoughts were how and if I am going to survive this," he said.

Bakri said there were four of them on the boat when the incident took place, adding the rest of the crew members had earlier gone to send their catch on land in Semporna.

"I remained as quiet as I could be when the gunmen searched below the deck. I was also thinking how the rest of my colleagues were doing. After about an hour, my friend called out to me… only then I came out. I wouldn't have if he didn't," he said.

The gunmen spoke to each other while they were below deck, he said, but he could not understand what they were saying although he believed they were from a neighbouring country.

Bakri said his friend then telephoned their employer in Tawau who in turn reported to the police before they made their way back to land.


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