(File pix) Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) Datuk Wan Abdul Bari Wan Abdul Khalid says the efforts to locate the missing boat skipper and two militants is still ongoing. Pix by NORASIKIN DAINEH.

KOTA KINABALU: The effort to locate two militants and a boat skipper who went missing after a gunfight with police in Semporna waters on Dec 8 is still ongoing.

Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) Datuk Wan Abdul Bari Wan Abdul Khalid said although authorities had called off the search and rescue operation on the fifth day, assets from Esscom and agencies such as the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) are still combing at sea for traces of the missing persons.

"We have covered a wide search area but still could not find them. They might have drifted away.

"However, assets from Esscom and other agencies such as MMEA are still in the area and will report if they find anything," he said after a forum with academicians on the security issues in Sabah at Universiti Malaysia Sabah today.

The two missing gunmen were part of seven-men group who went on a kidnapping spree in Lahad Datu and Semporna waters before they stumbled upon the security personnel.

The group had taken two hostages after striking three boats in the area.

In the ensuing exchange of fire, three gunmen were shot dead, two were caught, two are still missing. One of the hostages was rescued while another one was reported missing.