Monday, April 8, 2013

First success for Esszone against the Sulu invaders

A GROUP of 32 armed intruders had a taste of the effectiveness of the Eastern Sabah Security Zone (Esszone) operations are when they were nabbed 22km off Pulau Tambisan, near Lahad Datu, early yesterday.

Security in the waters off the east coast of Sabah had been intensified with the setting up of Esszone last month and this group was the first to be nabbed trying to breach the border.

Checks revealed that the 32 were from Southern Philippines and that they were armed. Security forces seized firearms, machetes, axes and several unspecified documents.

Sabah police commissioner Datuk Hamza Taib said security forces had been on high alert since the Lahad Datu intrusion in February.

Reports in the Philippines in recent weeks also indicated that more armed intruders were making their way to help their comrades in Sabah.

Hamza said the 32 were on board a kumpit, a traditional wooden vessel used by southern Filipinos. The boat was intercepted about 2am and escorted to Sandakan.

Hamza said the group would be held for further investigations under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act (Sosma) 2012.

"The situation is under control in all the districts, including Lahad Datu, Semporna, Kunak, Sandakan and Tawau, which are under the Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom)," he said at the state police headquarters here yesterday.

Hamza also said police would not take things for granted, including claims that about 1,000 gunmen had broken through the sea blockade into Sabah as reported by The Philippine Star.

The group reportedly had entered the state to add muscle to rebel leader Agbimuddin Kiram's fight against Malaysian security forces.

"We have not received any information on that but we have tightened security, especially at our border, and this was proved with the arrest of the 32 armed Filipinos," Hamza said.

In Lahad Datu, a forensics team entered Kampung Tanduo in Felda Sahabat to retrieve 15 decomposed bodies of gunmen, which were buried in the coastal village.

To date, 169 people have been arrested under Sosma, while 70 gunmen were killed and 47 bodies retrieved from the operation areas.

Hamza said the bodies that were retrieved were buried according to Islamic rites and that there were still 18 bodies in the mortuary.

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