KOTA KINABALU: A brazen kidnapping and robbing spree by seven Filipino gunmen ended with them facing off with the police elite Tiger Platoon which was sitting in decoy in waters off Pulau Gaya in Semporna.
The gunmen, who had already kidnapped two fishermen in three robberies, were suspected to have headed towards the fishing boat to rob and probably kidnap another victim when they realised that they were up against the General Operations Forces elite squad.
Three of them were killed, two captured and another two missing at sea during the high seas firefight on Thursday night that saw their twin-engine 80HP speedboat capsize.
Police rescued one of the kidnap victims, a trawler skipper, who was unhurt but the second trawler crew member was still missing.
A lance corporal from the platoon suffered a bullet injury to his calf.
Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Abdul Rashid Harun said the mission was part of the Ops Coral operations where they placed the elite squads to check cross-border criminals and kidnappers in the Eastern Sabah Security Zone (Esszone) since September.
“After 72 days since its implementation we have achieved success,” he said yesterday.
“When they came in, they had their plans and informants but this time they got trapped in the strategic measures of our security forces,” he said, adding that the success was part of the integrated operations by all the security agencies in Esscom.
This is the first time that security forces under Esscom, since its creation 2013, have come in direct contact with the cross border criminals who have been moving in and out of eastern Sabah waters, sometimes successful in their kidnappings.
Disclosing details of the events leading to the shootout, Abdul Rashid said that the seven men, with four long guns and a pistol approached on a speedboat a fishing trawler in waters off Pulau Adal in Lahad Datu at about 9.30pm on Thursday.
They robbed crewmen of cash, valuables and handphones, and destroyed their communication and radar equipment before kidnapping the skipper.
They targeted another fishing vessel off Pulau Gaya waters next but the crewmen ran helter-skelter with many jumping into the sea.
Abdul Rashid said that they then headed towards the trawler’s light boat and kidnapped a crew member from the trawler.
The group, he said, moved on to an unmarked boat which was actually manned by the General Operations Force Tiger Platoon.
On seeing the gunmen approach, the Tiger Platoon leader spotted two men standing on the boat with long guns while another was seen with bullets strapped across his chest.
They identified themselves as police and ordered the group to stop.
Instead, the group fired at the police team and they fired back in the shootout that lasted about a minute, Abdul Rashid added.
However, he said that two of the gunmen and a member of the crew could not be located and a search was being carried out and they have notified islanders to assist if they see them.-thestar