KOTA KINABALU: Almost a year after the abduction of Constable Zakia Aliep of the Marine Police from a resort in Pulau Mabul, Semporna, on July 12, 2014, Sabah was again shaken by a similar incident.
The Ocean King Seafood Restaurant located near Jalan Bokara, Pasir Putih, about three kilometres from Sandakan town was the target of the abductors on May 14, 2015.
In the incident at about 7.45 pm, the restaurant’s manager Thien Nyuk Fun, 50, and a Kuala Lumpur-based consultant Bernard Then Ted Fen, 39, from Sarawak were forced out by four armed men and into a boat that then sped off.
Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Jalaluddin Abdul Rahman said the abductors entered the restaurant through the rear entrance and made a beeline for Nyuk Fun, and Ted Fen who was dining at the restaurant.
“One of the men was wearing camouflage pants and a blue T-shirt while the others were in full camouflage clothing; they were not wearing any mask.
One of them had a belt of bullets across his shoulder,” said Jalaluddin in a statement a few hours after the incident.
Security and enforcement agencies in the Eastern Sabah Security Zone (ESSZone) such as the Marine Police, General Task Force, Malaysian Armed Forces and Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency reacted swiftly.
Personnel were mobilised to track the culprits and blockades were mounted at common exit-entry points along Sabah’s east coast right up to the border.
About 100 customers and workers at the restaurant who had witnessed the abduction were called to have their statements recorded.
Three days later, in a statement, Jalaluddin said the incident could likely have been masterminded by an insider who singled out ‘high quality’ targets for the criminals to kidnap.
Jalaluddin also confirmed in the same statement that the families of both hostages had received telephone calls from persons claiming to have abducted Nyuk Fun and Ted Fen and demanding high ransoms; he did not disclose the amount.
He further confirmed that the two victims were being held captive at an island in the southern Philippines but were safe.
From the time of the abduction till May 23, the kidnappers were said to have made three calls to the victims’ families repeating their demand for ransom, and other amounts for the hostages’ expenses and Nyuk Fun’s diabetes medication.
On Aug 5, Jalaluddin said police were negotiating with the kidnappers to release the victims without any ransom, on humanitarian grounds.
He revealed that the kidnappers had initially demanded RM60 million for both hostages.
After a series of negotiations, the kidnappers agreed to reduce the ransom amount by 50 per cent but about one month later the kidnappers contacted the victims’ families threatening to behead the hostages if the money was not paid.
Despite the tense situation compounded by Philippine security forces’ operations to hunt down terrorist groups, which complicated the negotiation process, some good news arrived.
On Nov 8, Nyuk Fun was released by the kidnappers and returned safely to her family in Sandakan from Jolo, southern Philippines.
However, the situation surrounding the kidnapping took a turn for the worse with Philippine media reporting that Ted Fen had been beheaded by his captors during a skirmish between the kidnappers and Philippine security forces.
It was reported that the murder was committed on Nov 17 at a remote location
in the southern Philippines.
The Philippine media also reported that a human head and a headless body were recovered about 30 kilometres apart by Philippine authorities and sent to a hospital for DNA testing to determine whether the remains were those of Ted Fen.
Last week, Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar told the media that he had received confirmation from Philippine authorities that the human head found in southern Philippines in November belonged to Malaysian
hostage Ted Fen based on DNA tests.
He said the Royal Malaysian Police would work with the Philippine authorities to bring the deceased’s remains home to Malaysia.
Subsequent to reports of Ted Fen’s beheading, Khalid had also stated that an application would be made to the Philippine authorities for extradition of two detained members of the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group.
The duo are believed to be involved in Ted Fen’s abduction and murder.
Meanwhile, security forces in ESSZone are constantly striving to improve their capabilities against further cross-border infiltration by terrorists and criminals.
The Eastern Sabah Security Command (ESSCom) has maintained the curfew, now into the 33rd phase, over the waters off ESSZone.
ESSCom has two sea basing ships, Tun Sharifah Rodziah and Tun Azizan, located off ESSZone which are equipped with a coastal surveillance system, CSS 1206 radar that has a range of 20 kilometres.
The two security assets would be further enhanced with the installation of the CSS AESA Spexer 2000 radar that has a range of 40 kilometres. These equipment would be funded by Petronas.
Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein, who visited the Tun Sharifah Rodziah platform on Oct 12, said its implementation was a first in the world and had become a model of defence for other countries.
The functions of a sea-basing platform, according to him, are to act as the first line of defence against terrorist invasion, collect tactical and maritime intelligence, frontline operation base and to provide logistics assistance to interceptor boats.