KUALA LUMPUR – After lying low for almost a year, south Philippine gunmen who were behind a string of abductions off the coast of Sabah in the past struck again yesterday, snatching a female seafood restaurant co-owner and a male customer in Jalan Batu Sapi, Sandakan.
Sources said the group of at least four kidnappers had arrived in a boat about 7.30pm before walking into the popular Ocean King Seafood Restaurant located about 100m from the coast.
The patrons scurried away on seeing the men, who were carrying assault rifles.
The gunmen grabbed the restaurant owner identified as Thien Nyuk Fun, 50, and a customer, Bernard Then, 39.
Then, a Sarawakian, is believed to be an engineering consultant working in Cambodia.
Although police believe the abduction could be the work of Abu Sayyaf militants, it is yet to be confirmed.
It is learnt that the abductors, who were dressed partially in olive-drab military fatigues, dragged both victims towards their speed boat before escaping towards the Philippines.
Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar said the woman is a Sabahan and a co-owner of the restaurant.
He said the male victimâ€™s last known address was Jalan Klang Lama, Kuala Lumpur.
â€œThe raid was similar to several others carried out in Sabah in the past. For now, we are investigating which foreign group is behind this abduction. A search operation was launched soon after we were alerted,â€ he told theSun when contacted.
Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Jalaluddin Abdul Rahman said police have retrieved a closed-circuit security camera recording from the restaurant and have viewed a footage of the raid.
He said a massive operation led by Eastern Sabah Security Command (ESSCOM) commander Datuk Abdul Rashid Harun is ongoing.
He said police have also roped in other enforcement agencies such as the military and the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) to assist in the search for the kidnappers and victims.
He said MMEA and Royal Malaysian Air Force helicopters that are carrying out aerial surveillance have also been ordered to intercept the kidnappersâ€™ boat when sighted. – The Sun