Sabah on guard after Indonesia alleges Abu Sayyaf hunting for hostages

Julia Chan
ESSCom commander Datuk Hazani Ghazali addresses a press conference in Sandakan February 23, 2019. — Bernama pic

KOTA KINABALU, Sept 2 — The Eastern Sabah Security Command (ESSCom) is on alert following warning from neighbouring Indonesia that Abu Sayyaf insurgents may be carrying out raids for ransom victims over the long Merdeka weekend.

ESSCom commander Datuk Hazani Ghazali said intelligence from the Philippines showed no immediate threat despite a circular from the Indonesia Consulate here alleging an attempt in Sabah’s east coast.

“We are always prepared to face any threats from the Abu Sayyaf in our waters," he said, adding that they had received the circular from the Indonesian consulate and had checked with the Philippine security forces.

“We made contact and checked with our Philippines counterparts and they have no reports of any kidnap for ransom activity,” he said in a statement today.

He was asked to comment on the circular from the Indonesian republic consulate here which has been going viral in Sabah WhatsApp groups alleging that a group of three Abu Sayyaf groups left Jolo in the Southern Philippines last August 30,  heading towards Sabah.

The groups were supposedly on prowl for kidnap-for-ransom opportunities to fund its militant activities.

The circular alleged that the group was targeting the areas of Bakongan, Berhala, Sandakan, Mamiang, Tembiasan and Taganak and specifically looking for fishing boats, tugboats and trawlers in the area.

The circular was believed to be targeted at Indonesian citizens who are in the fishing industry and work as ship crew to be more cautious when heading out to sea.

KFR groups used to target tourists in Sabah’s east coast particularly at the islands near Semporna but since a curfew was announced and tighter security was implemented, the groups have turned their sights onto fishing vessels.

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