3 Filipino gunmen shot dead off Sabah
KOTA KINABALU—Malaysian security forces clashed with eight Filipino gunmen involved in cross-border kidnappings in Sabah’s east coast Darvel Bay.
Three suspected kidnappers were shot dead while three others were captured in a 20-minute gunfight between the police’s Tiger Platoon and eight gunmen in waters off Pulau Bodgaya in Semporna at 9:40 p.m. on Thursday.
A policeman was shot in the foot during the shootout and was airlifted to Semporna
hospital at 1:50 a.m. on Friday.
A massive search for the two other gunmen is underway.
The group of heavily armed gunmen was first spotted in a blue-twin engine 80HP speedboat heading towards the fishing trawler Yakin 2 in the waters between Pulau Bakapit and Pulau Adal at about 9 p.m. on Thursday.
Sabah Police Commissioner Abdul Rashid Harun said the men, armed with four rifles and one pistol, had clambered on board the trawler and robbed the fishermen of valuables, handphones and food before kidnapping the boat’s skipper.
Rashid said the skipper holds a IMM 13 immigration document, which is given to Filipino refugees in Sabah.
The gunmen destroyed all communications equipment, before heading towards Pulau Semporna where they hit another fishing trawler.
In the confusion, many crewmen from the second fishing vessel jumped into sea.
However, the gunmen managed to cart away an outboard engine before heading to the vessel’s light boat, anchored a distanced away, from which they kidnapped one person.
As the gunmen were heading out they approached an unmarked boat which was actually manned by the General Operations Force’s Tiger Platoon.
A gunfight broke out in pitch darkness and it was only after the fighting stopped did they find the three bodies of the suspects.
Rashid said three people were discovered alive following the gunfight—two gunmen and the skipper of the fishing trawler.
However, two other gunmen and the victim from the second kidnapping could not be located.
The gunmen are believed to be members of a Tawi-tawi-based kidnap for ransom group responsible for at least six of the nine kidnappings in the east coast of Sabah this year.
Philippine authorities are now verifying the identities of the three Filipino gunmen killed by Malaysian authorities.
Confirming receipt of report on the clash, the military said it still could not provide additional details on the encounter.
But Maj. Filemon Tan Jr., the spokesperson of the Western Mindanao Command, said their units on the ground were now verifying the identities of the slain suspected kidnappers.
While the identities or affiliation of the suspects had not been made available as of yet, it was a known fact that only the Abu Sayyaf ventures into Malaysian territories in search of victims to abduct. —THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK WITH A REPORT FROM JULIE ALIPALA
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