KOTA KINABALU: Two men believed to be foreigners were killed in a shootout with police in the Sahabat 2 waters off Lahad Datu on Tuesday (Sep 3).
Sabah police commissioner Omar Mammah said the two men were aged between 30 and 40, but their identities have yet to be established.
The shootout happened at about 11pm local time when a police team on patrol in the area intercepted two pump boats that looked suspicious, he told a press conference on Wednesday.
One of them was found dead with gunshot wounds in one of the pump boats, while the other body was floating in the sea, he said.
The other boat sped away towards Philippine waters after the shootout.
Omar said police recovered a rifle with a magazine, two rounds of ammunition and a spent cartridge from the boat where the body was found.
"Police do not rule out the possibility that they were members of a gang on the lookout for potential kidnap victims or were planning to commit violent acts,” he said.
Elaborating on the incident, he said the police patrol boat had intercepted the two pump boats and ordered them to stop.
However, the suspects suddenly opened fire at the police, forcing them to return fire, he said.
"The incident happened about 10 nautical miles from the Felda Sahabat shores and police believe the two suspects and their accomplices in the other boat were out to commit crime,” he said, adding that police were able to detect them early.
The two bodies, as well as the pump boat and its engine, have been taken to the Lahad Datu marine police base.
Omar said police have taken the fingerprints of the two suspects to determine their identities and also whether they were connected to any kidnapping gangs.
He said police are always on the alert to prevent intrusions in the waters off the Sabah east coast.