WORKERS UNHARMED: Five armed men flee by boat with manager and his assistant who were checking on swiftlet farm
KOTA KINABALU: FIVE gunmen abducted two men from a plantation in Lahad Datu, then walked 2km to a beach nearby. They then sped off into the open sea in a boat on Wednesday.
The two -- the 33-year-old plantation manager and his 25-year-old assistant, who is also the former's cousin -- were inspecting a swiftlet house in the plantation, near Felda Sahabat, with two workers when they were approached by their abductors at 3.30pm.
The gunmen did not take the workers with them. They led the two out to the beach, near Kampung Manakayan.
State police commissioner Datuk Hamza Taib said the plantation workers were not harmed.
He said the gunmen communicated in the Suluk language, adding that police were looking into the possibility that the only member of the group, who wore a mask, was the mastermind.
"We have yet to establish the motive behind the abduction," he said at state police headquarters in Kepayan.
Hamza said among items taken by the group were the victims' handphones and jewellery, worth RM28,000.
He added that police were working together with the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency and Royal Malaysian Navy to track down the group.
"We have also informed our counterparts in neighbouring countries and they are also on the lookout.
"So far, the victim's family members have not received any calls from them or their abductors," said Hamza, adding that the closest islands in southern Philippines were Bongao and Sitangkai, which could be reached by boat in an hour.
Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman said he had urged the authorities to leave no stone unturned in solving the case.
"I have asked the authorities to mobilise their forces and trace the whereabouts of the abductees."
Musa, who is also state Security Committee chairman, said the facts of the case were still unclear. Therefore, it was premature to state what actually happened.
"Until a thorough investigation is made, I ask that the public remain calm and not speculate on the case. The authorities are doing their level best to resolve this matter."
The last reported abduction from the east coast of Sabah was in 2010 when two seaweed farmers were taken from Sebangkat Island off Semporna by gunmen.
They were taken to Tawi-Tawi Island and released unharmed in December that year. A ransom was paid to secure their release.
In 2003, seven foreigners were taken hostage from a resort located in an oil palm estate in Silam, Lahad Datu.
In 2000, two abductions took place when the Abu Sayyaf kidnapped 23 people, including tourists, from Sipadan. In the second incident, they took three Malaysians from Pulau Pandanan off Semporna.