Esscom working with Philippine police to locate kidnapped fishermen

 Esscom commander Hazani Ghazali says they are in communication with their Philippine counterparts to identify the two armed suspects who made off with the fishermen. (Facebook pic)

KOTA KINABALU: The two Indonesian fishermen kidnapped off Semporna are probably no longer in the country, said Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) commander Hazani Ghazali.

He said they were in communication with their Philippine counterparts to identify the two armed suspects who made off with the fishermen near Pulau Gaya about midnight yesterday.

No ransom call had been made to the fishermen’s employer, he said when contacted.

Acting Sabah police chief Omar Mammah had said that the fishermen – identified as Samsul Sagunim 40, and Usman Yunus, 35 – were kidnapped by masked men armed with what was believed to be M16 rifles.

He said two others, also Indonesians, escaped abduction after they hid away in different areas of the fishing vessel. The kidnappers fled in a pump boat.

Omar said the vessel had a licence to fish in the Eastern Sabah Security Zone (Esszone) within the curfew period, which is from 6pm to 6am.

Bakri, one of the fishermen who escaped, said he hid under a pile of plywood which he covered with gunny sacks in order to avoid detection by the gunmen.

Meanwhile, Hazani said the vessel in the kidnapping incident was not equipped with the automatic identification system (AIS).

“Esscom has repeatedly reminded on the importance of having AIS but unfortunately there are still operators who fail to adhere to this. This equipment can assist the security forces monitor any marine activity in the Esszone.

“Normally, when a crime happens at sea, the crew will first inform their bosses before the latter in turn report to the security forces. This prevents us from taking immediate action and gives room for the criminals to flee,” he said.