KUALA LUMPUR – Two gunmen traveling by sea abducted a Malaysian and a Filipino, both men, on Monday off the Coast of Borneo Island, police officials said. This, despite heavy security in the area after a series of prior kidnappings.
Omar Mammah, head of criminal investigations for the Malaysian state of Sabah, told reporters from AFP that “two armed gunmen abducted two people from an open-sea fish farm. They were taken away in a boat.”
He identified the Malaysian citizen as Chan Sai Chiun, 32, and a the Filipino as an employee identified only as Maslan. Mammah detailed that the two were abducted from the fish farm Chan operates off the small coastal town of Kunak in Sabah, in northern Borneo.
Eastern Sabah, a popular dive spot, has likewise gained notoriety as a hotspot for abductions; with bandits from chaotic and rebel-infested areas of principally Muslim southern Philippines repeatedly crossing a narrow sea border to abduct Malaysian citizens and foreigners over the years. Victims are usually taken back to the Philippines, where they are held for ransom.
Two incidents of abduction have already been reported this year.
In May, a Chinese fish-farm manager, was forcibly taken from his area of work, and is believed to still be captive in the southern Philippines.
In April, a Chinese tourist and a Filipina resort worker were seized from a diving resort.
They have since been freed, with Malaysian officials reporting that kidnappers demanded $11 million for the release of the Chinese woman. The government subsequently denied paying the ransom.
The spate of kidnappings has continued, despite beefed-up security efforts on the part of the Malaysian government. It will be remembered that Malaysia and Islamic Philippine guerillas were engaged in a deadly standoff last year over historical claims to the territory.
Several abductions through the years have been pinned on the Abu Sayyaf militant group, an alleged affiliate of the Al-Qaeda.
In 2000, Abu Sayyaf gunmen kidnapped 21 people, many of whom were foreign tourists, from a Sabah diving resort. The abductees were released some months later, after ransom was paid.