KOTA KINABALU: At least four new kidnap-for-ransom groups have tried sneaking into Sabah waters from southern Philippines.
The groups were detected by the Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) that has been on high alert for intrusions in waters under the Eastern Sabah Safety Zone (Esszone).
Esscom commander Datuk Hazani Ghazali told New Straits Times, the new active groups originates from Sitangkai Island of Tawi-Tawi, southern Philippines, siimilar to a group dubbed Two Brothers or Kumpulan Remy.
“Kumpulan Remy has been crippled by the Philippine security forces but there will always be other groups who will try to come into the state. We remain alert at any time and ever ready to tackle any security problem in Esszone,” he said.
On Monday, security forces shot dead a remnant member of Kumpulan Remy identified as Abu Paliyak or Komander Paliyak @ Yusof in Silam waters near Pulau Kantung Kalungan off Lahad Datu.
Paliyak, 31, was high on the wanted list in the Philippine. Prior to his death, Paliyak was believed to have sneaked into Sabah waters, disguised as a fisherman.
Hazani said Paliyak, who was also linked to the Abu Sayyaf militant group, was spying for new kidnap-for-ransom targets when security forces on patrol duty spotted him at 3am.
“We believe he had just entered Sabah waters. It only takes about 30 to 45 minutes of boat ride to reach Lahad Datu from Sitangkai Island,” he noted.
Since Jan 2017, there were 29 individuals or trans-border criminals listed in Esscom wanted list. Paliyak, however, was not on the list.
The 29 individuals are Filipino citizens and lived at various islands in the southern Philippines. They were wanted for their involvement in series of kidnapping and robbery at sea in Esszone.
“To date, 15 persons were neutralised or arrested by the Philippines security forces. We are continuously tracking down others (on the list) as well as members and remnant members of kidnap-for-ransom groups. We hope to make an arrest.
“Despite occasional incidents of cross-border crime, security in Sabah’s east coast remains under control and we work closely with the Philippine forces to combat foreign criminals,” stressed Hazani.
Meanwhile, Sabah police commissioner Datuk Ramli Din said police would remain on the lookout for another remnant member of Kumpulan Remy.
He noted the 11-member group was crippled after Philippine security forces arrested five members, while four others were killed in Philippine offensive operations.
“We know that another member is still at large. We have information that this individual is in the Philippines and he will sometime roam the sea,” he said, adding Kumpulan Remy was active between 2014 and 2015.
Ramli also noted the joint sea patrol with Philippine and Indonesian marine police is conducted on a regular basis to intensify security at maritime borders.
“The teams will rendezvous in the middle of the sea to share vital information,” he said.