KOTA KINABALU - Gunmen linked to the Abu Sayyaf might be behind the shooting of a Sabah-registered fishing vessel in the border waters between northern Kudat and the Philippines.
Two of the vessel's 10 Vietnamese crew sustained gunshot wounds as they evaded the gunmen and fled towards Sabah in the 9am incident on Tuesday, some 22 nautical miles east of Pulau Banggi.
Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Jalaluddin Abdul Rahman said the two injured men, Nguyen Nain Len, 47, and Huynh Thanh Tuan, 33, were recovering from bullet injuries to their knees and ribs at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital 2 after they arrived at the marine police jetty here at about 9.30am yesterday.
Four heavily-armed men were in the 17m speedboat that attacked the fishing boat.
The Vietnamese crewmen managed to escape to Sepanggar Island off the city here and were rescued by marine police a day later.
Jalaluddin said they had informed the Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) and went on full alert around Pulau Banggi.
Earlier, some of the crewmen at the jetty indicated with the aid of gestures to journalists their frightful ordeal and clasped their hands to indicate they were thankful.
Philippine intelligence sources said they were looking at whether the Abu Sayyaf was behind it.
Among the suspicions were that gunmen linked to the Abu Sayyaf might be moving north to find victims for ransom due to the tight security and curfew in eastern Sabah.
Filipino officials have noted the trend since the April 25 kidnapping of a German couple, Henrite Dielen and Dr Stefan Viktor Okonek, from their yacht near the southern Philippine island of Palawan (north of Pulau Banggi).
The couple were abducted by Tawi Tawi-based gunmen who moved north after they failed to make way through Malaysian security.
The couple were handed over to al-Qaeda-linked militants, who threatened to behead Dr Okonek by 3pm on Oct 17, if their demands for ransom, the withdrawal of US troops in Syria and Iraq, as well as calls to the Philippine government to support the global coalition of Islamic State (IS) were not met.
Two Malaysians, marine police Kons Zakiah Aleip, 26, and fish breeder Chan Sai Chuin, 32, are still being held by Abu Sayyaf-linked kidnap-for-ransom groups.