Malaysian cop killed, another kidnapped in Sabah

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Sunday, July 13, 2014

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia -- Armed gunmen fatally shot a Malaysian policeman and kidnapped another during a shootout at a resort on Borneo island, a security official said Sunday.

It was the latest in a spate of kidnappings in Sabah, highlighting persistent security threats in the state. Sabah is a short boat ride from the southern Philippines, home to Muslim militants and kidnap gangs.

Eight gunmen wearing army fatigues barged into the Mabul Water Bungalow Resort late Saturday and ambushed marine police officers on guard there, said Abdul Rashid Haron, who heads the Eastern Sabah Security Command.

A marine policeman was killed in the shootout and the gunmen, who had their faces covered, fled on a boat with another officer, Abdul Rashid said, adding that the boat was seen heading toward the southern Philippines.

He said the gunmen may either have been planning to kidnap someone at the resort or were targeting marine police after recent increased security on the island helped to curb their activities.

"We don't know their motive. Maybe they were retaliating because we have tightened security in the area. I cannot rule that out," Abdul Rashid said.

It was not clear who was behind the attack, but previous kidnappings are believed to have been carried out by Abu Sayyaf bandits.

The kidnappings have hampered tourism in Sabah, a popular destination for foreigners and a diving haven. Sabah's government has announced a curfew and travel restrictions in high-risk areas to bolster security.

It was the fourth kidnapping in Sabah since April. A 32-year-old Malaysian fish breeder and his Filipino worker were abducted by Filipino gunmen from their farm last month and believed taken to the southern Philippines.

A Chinese fish farm manager, a Chinese tourist and a Filipino resort worker who were all kidnapped earlier this year have since been released.

The Abu Sayyaf, which operates out of the southern Philippines, has had links to international terrorist networks, including al-Qaida, but a US-backed Philippine military crackdown has weakened it considerably in recent years. The group has about 300 fighters and now is focused on ransom kidnappings. (AP)

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