KOTA KINABALU - Malaysian security forces are making significant headway in their efforts to cripple the southern Philippines' kidnap-for-ransom (KFR) groups that have been striking Sabah's east coast.
Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) director-general Datuk Mohamad Mantek said they had so far identified 14 such groups, of which seven were still active.
"We have improved our intelligence-gathering capabilities and we are making tremendous progress," he said at a dialogue with Kota Kinabalu Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry officials here yesterday.
He noted that recent meetings between Malaysian security officials and their Philippine counterparts had helped considerably in gathering much information about these criminals, which was crucial in crippling their operations and preventing them from hitting targets in Sabah's east coast.
Chinese tourist Gao Huayun, 29, and Filipina hotel worker Marcy Dayawan, 40, were abducted from Singamata while Chinese fish farm manager Yang Zai Lin, 34, was taken from Pulau Baik.
Negotiations between Malaysian and Philippine security officials and the gunmen had resulted in Gao and Dayawan's freedom on Friday after 58 days in captivity.
Gao, who was flown to Kuala Lumpur the following day, was scheduled to leave for Shanghai last night while Dayawan has returned to the Philippines.
Mohamad said Malaysian and Philippine security officials had embarked on another round of negotiations - this time to secure the release of Yang.
Mohamad said Esscom also hoped to establish a forward operations base (FOB) using a disused Petronas oil platform to be stationed in waters off Semporna district by year's end.
He said the FOB would significantly increase the security forces' capabilities in detecting intrusions in Malaysian waters.