SEMPORNA, Malaysia - The possibility that southern Philippines-based gunmen are targeting security personnel for revenge has become the focus of investigators as they are starting to get a fair idea of the group behind the deadly ambush on the Mabul police post.
"We are investigating if our security forces are the target of these groups," said Deputy Comm Datuk Abdul Rashid Harun, who officially took over as commander of the Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) yesterday.
Rashid, who paid a courtesy call on Chief Minister Datuk Musa Aman to brief him on the development in the latest case yesterday, did not elaborate, saying they were looking into all angles on the motive of the cross-border criminals.
Suspicions have been growing since Saturday's incident where a policeman, Kpl Abdul Rajah Jemuan, 32, was killed and his colleague Kons Zakiah Aliep, 26, abducted by gunmen, that the intruders were specifically targeting the security forces as they made little or no effort to seek out tourists during the attack.
A series of clampdowns in the east coast of Sabah through Esscom's Ops Gasak have crippled remnant Sulu armed groups and smuggling activities between the sea borders of Sabah and southern Philippines.
Kidnap-for-ransom groups are believed to be active in southern Philippines and their abducted victims are usually sold to al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf militants in Jolo from where negotiations for their release are then made.
DCP Rashid said the identities of the groups were being investigated.
On the "shoot on sight" proposal to check cross-border criminals, Rashid said it would not be a problem if it was done in accordance with the law.
He said security in Sabah was still considered good and they would beef up their assets where needed as they were working towards an efficient standard operating procedure.