KOTA KINABALU: Three Indonesian fishermen were kidnapped on Tuesday (Sep 11) by armed men in the waters off Semporna, a town in the East Malaysian state of Sabah.
According to the Star, the three victims and one other person were on a fishing vessel docked at the Pulau Gaya jetty when the kidnapping took place during curfew hours at around 1am.
The fourth person - who escaped the abduction - told the police he had heard the sound of the vessel's engine being turned off and noticed the power supply being shut, the report said, citing Sabah's acting police chief Omar Mammah.
"He went to hide in a compartment in front of the boat. He saw two masked armed men with dark clothing coming on board," Omar said, adding that the eyewitness had alerted the police about the incident at about 2am.
The police have not been informed of any ransom calls related to the incident, which is under investigation, said the Star. An initial probe showed that the masked kidnappers were carrying M16 rifles.
The Star also reported that the armed men were speaking in Suluk, a dialect used in the Philippines' Sulu province.
The victims and kidnappers have yet to be identified, Omar said, according to Bernama news agency.
“However, we do not rule out the possibility that the kidnappers belong to a group that kidnap for ransom; so far, we have yet to receive calls from any quarters claiming responsible for the kidnapping," he added.
A 12-hour sea curfew from 6pm to 6am was imposed four years ago and it covers up to three nautical miles off Tawau, Semporna, Kunak, Lahad Datu, Kinabatangan, Sandakan and Beluran.
This is the first kidnapping to take place in Sabah in two years.
On Dec 8, 2016, a series of kidnappings by a group of seven armed men occurred in the waters off Lahad Datu and Semporna, leaving three of the armed men dead.
The area has a history of kidnapping incidents, many of which were led by the Abu Sayyaf militant group headquartered in Jolo, the capital of Sulu.