I feared for my life, says fisherman in Semporna’s kidnapping incident

Two crew members were kidnapped from their boat by armed men earlier today. (Facebook pic)

KOTA KINABALU: One of the fishermen who escaped being kidnapped in Semporna revealed how he hid underneath a pile of plywood and gunny sacks after two armed men boarded their boat earlier today.

The man, who only wished to be identified as Bakri, said he was resting in his make-shift quarters, which was used to store the ship’s anchor, when he noticed a pump boat closing in on their vessel shortly after midnight.

“I felt something amiss when the lights on the pump boat were suddenly switched off when it was almost nearing our boat,” he told FMT.

Not long after that, he said, two men, who he believed to be armed and wearing masks got onto their boat.

“I immediately went under a pile of plywood and also managed to get some gunny sacks to cover over it.

“I feared for my life as this was the first time I went through such an experience. My only thoughts were how and if I am going to survive this,” he said.

In the 12.30am incident, two crew members of the fishing boat were kidnapped by armed men in Pulau Gaya waters off Semporna.

Acting Sabah police chief Omar Mammah said the men, both in their 30s, were with two others who were fishing when the armed men entered the boat. All the crewmen were Indonesians

The other two, including Bakri, managed to hide and only found their co-fishermen missing when they came out of their hiding.

Bakri said there were four of them on the boat when the incident took place, adding the rest of the crew members had earlier gone to send their catch on land in Semporna.

“I remained as quiet as I could be when the gunmen searched below the deck. I was also thinking how the rest of my colleagues were doing. After about an hour, my friend called out to me… only then I came out. I wouldn’t have if he didn’t,” he said.

The gunmen spoke to each other while they were below deck, he said, but he could not understand what they were saying although he believed they were from a neighbouring country.

Bakri said his friend then telephoned their employer in Tawau who in turn reported to the police before they made their way back to land.

Speaking after the state-level Maal Hijrah celebrations here today, Chief Minister Shafie Apdal said he had ordered the police to locate the kidnapped fishermen immediately.

“I have instructed follow-up action despite the fishermen being Indonesians.

“We must ensure that lives are protected no matter who they are because they were caught within our boundary and this has become our responsibility and we must help our neighbouring country as well,” he said.

Omar said this was the first kidnapping incident in Sabah this year, adding the fishing boat had a licence to operate within the curfew hour in the Eastern Sabah Security Zone (Esszone).

He did not discount the possibility this latest incident was linked to terrorism activities but for now, believed it was a kidnap for ransom (KFR) case.

“There have been no demands made for any ransom yet. We are not sure if the kidnapped fishermen are still in the country… investigations are ongoing,” he said.