Channel NewsAsia

M'sia beefs up security in Sabah after kidnappings

Malaysia is revamping its security command in the eastern state of Sabah, following a recent spate of cross border kidnappings. Prime Minister Najib Razak has put a new commander in charge of security and defence in the area to streamline operations.

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia is revamping its security command in the eastern state of Sabah, following a recent spate of cross border kidnappings.

Prime Minister Najib Razak has put a new commander in charge of security and defence in the area to streamline operations.

Authorities are also installing radar in a bid to detect gunmen before they enter Sabah.

The Sabah Eastern Security Command (ESSCOM) was set up in March 2013, following the incursion by militants from the southern Philippines that killed nine police officers and six civilians.

While it has been largely successful in preventing a repeat of such intrusions, it has failed to put a lid on cross border kidnappings.

At least six people have been abducted in the past nine months -- including three foreign tourists and a businessman.

The perpetrators are believed to be gunmen linked to terrorist groups in the southern Philippines.

Prime Minister Najib Razak now said that he wants to beef up security along the long and porous coastline, which stretches 1,700 kilometres.

The security boost will also see the addition of 30 powerful boats and the installation of sea platforms fitted with radar.

Mr Najib said: "The platforms that we're going to put out at sea will certainly help because then we'll have a much wider coverage. Before they can enter international waters, we are able to intercept them."

To streamline operations, a new commander will be put in charge of intelligence gathering, security and defence operations.

Abdul Rashid Harun, the deputy commissioner of police in Malaysia, said: "Previously, we had many heads in charge of operations. Now we have only one head and that's from the Royal Malaysian Police. I will focus on the operations side of things."

Several new security measures have already been implemented -- ships can only ply the coast using designated routes, while fish farm operators have been told not to live by the coast until the threat is removed.

Meanwhile, a warning has also been issued to locals against conspiring with gunmen. 

Tweet Photos, Videos and Update on this Story to  #cna