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Renewed fears after high-sea shooting | Free Malaysia Today

Posted: 27 Jul 2011 09:09 PM PDT

Tawau district police have claimed that a recent shooting at sea was not connected to piracy and kidnappings that have taken place in and around the district in the past.

TAWAU: A fatal shooting and robbery at sea here this week has renewed fears that the east coast of Sabah is not safe.

Although police here claimed that last Monday shooting was an isolated incident, observers have questioned the true security situation here.

They have raised questions about the ease by which gun-totting men have been able to pass undetected into Sabah waters.

It is common knowledge that in this eastern "province" stretching from Tawau to Sandakan, guns are easily accessible.

In the latest incident, one fisherman was killed and three of his friends injured and forced to swim to shore after they were attacked at sea by two armed men in a pump boat in the waters near Mile 5, Apas.

The dead man, who was identified only as Rambo, in his 40s, was believed to have been shot in the leg and drowned after he and his companions were forced to jump into the sea.

The body of the shot victim was found floating off the coast on Tuesday afternoon after a search and rescue operation was launched.

Police, who confirmed the incident, believe the motive was a grudge that led to the shooting and robbery.

District police chief ACP Ibrahim Chin said the incident occurred at about 10pm and police received report at about 11pm from the victim's three friends who managed to swim to shore.

He said the victim was hit in the feet and investigators believe this made it difficult for him to swim.

His identity was confirmed by his wife.

Spike in robberies

One of the victims in his report recounted that the incident occurred at about 8pm.

He said they were sleeping in their "jongkong" after fishing when a pump boat approached them and two men jumped aboard and ordered everyone to jump into the sea.

The victims refused and the assailants fired three shots striking Rambo in his left leg and also the right leg and shoulder of his friend Tani Saleh, 35.

In the ensuing panic, all of them jumped into the sea to escape.

According to one of the victims, Boboy Tani, 15, it took them two hours to reach the shore at Mile 5, Apas, where they were helped by the locals there.

Ibrahim said that the victims' boat, with two outboard engines of 40 and 18 horsepower worth RM10,000 belonging to the four, was missing and police believed the assailants had towed it away with them.

He urged fishermen and tourists not to worry about the security situation in the waters off here as all law enforcement agencies are cooperating on the case.

Ibrahim said preliminary investigations indicated grudge and vengeance as motives for the murder and armed robbery.

The incident comes after a spike in similar robberies at sea off the east coast and north of the state.

Frightened fishermen who refused to go out to sea prompted security forces to boost their presence in the area which is also a tourist haunt.

Just last year, two businessmen were kidnapped from an island off the district and taken to the southern Philippines where they were held for more than 10 months and only released after a ransom was allegedly paid by the government.

That incident occurred shortly after the US Embassy warned of an impending attack on the east coast of Sabah and urged its citizens to avoid the area.

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