SEMPORNA- Marine police Kpl Abdul Rajah Jamuan, 32, went down fighting in a shootout with heavily armed Filipino gunmen who abducted his colleague during a surprise attack on a security post in Pulau Mabul.
He and Kons Zakiah Aliep, 26, were having a meal at the security post of the Mabul Water Bungalows Resort at about 11.10pm on Saturday when they were fired upon by at least eight heavily armed and masked gunmen dressed in military slacks and black shirts.
Rajah, who joined the police force 12 years ago, was involved in the operations against the Sulu armed intrusion in Kg Tanduo in Lahad Datu early last year.
His body was found below the jetty of the resort while Zakiah was missing following a seven-minute gun battle.
The gunmen fled as other marine personnel near the area moved in to help.
Security forces within the Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) immediately launched Ops Tutup to hunt down the gunmen by blocking off exits into the Tawi Tawi chain of islands in the southern Philippines.
Home Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said the gunmen had been identified as Sulus who could have been acting on revenge.
Esscom commander Datuk Abdul Rashid Harun, who said Zakiah was believed to be held by the gunmen, had earlier also not ruled out revenge as a motive as security forces had been clamping down on militants and kidnap-for-ransom groups operating in the east coast.
"The gunmen might have been targeting tourists to abduct at the resort but attacked the marine police after being unable to locate any.
"If this is the case, then this was the price our security forces have paid in preventing abductions," he said.
Police believed the gunmen could have rowed their boat into the area during low tide before climbing up the resort's jetty from the rear of the building.
They fired at the direction of the restaurant and reception area before attacking the policemen at the security post.
They abducted Zakiah and shot Rajah while fleeing.
Another marine policeman, Sjn Jeffridin Harun, who was on a patrol boat nearby heard about 10 shots being fired. He alerted Esscom of the attack.
Most resort guests and workers were in their rooms and sleeping when the incident occurred.
People at other resorts along the island's beach said that they heard gun shots but remained indoors until morning.
"We heard shooting but we did not come out. At 6.30am, I asked General Operations Force (GOF) personnel stationed on Mabul if anything had happened but they could not tell me anything," said a resort worker.
"I found out about the shooting from online news."