KOTA KINABALU: The authorities believe that Abu Sayyaf-linked kidnap-for-ransom gangs will try to strike in Sabah waters given "half a chance".
"If we let our guard down, they will make an attempt," said outgoing Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Jalaluddin Abdul Rahman.
The high level of security that had been put in place by the Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) has helped deter these cross-border kidnap groups, he said after attending the monthly Kepayan state police headquarters monthly gathering.
Jalaluddin, who implemented the dawn-to-dusk sea curfew in seven east coast Sabah districts since July last year, said the curfew helped in strengthening security while they monitored movements of any criminal elements.
"Local fishermen who obtained permits to carry out fishing during curfew hours are also helping by becoming the eye and ears for the police," he said.
These fishermen, he said, would tip them off on any suspicious movements within Sabah waters.
On May 14, cross-border kidnap groups controlled by the notorious Muktadir brothers snatched restaurant manager Thien Nyuk Fun, 50, and Sarawakian tourist Bernard Then, 39, from a restaurant in Sandakan.
Thien was released on Nov 8 but Then was killed on Nov 17 by the gunmen after ransom negotiations broke down.
Malaysia is making efforts to bring his body home.
Kadafi, one of the Muktadir brothers, was arrested in Jolo by Philippines police on Nov 29.
His twin brother Mindas was shot dead also in Jolo in May.
However, the hunt is still on for the mastermind among the Muktadir brothers.
Nikson and Badong are still on the run with intelligence on both sides believing that they might be planning cross-border kidnappings.
The Muktadir brothers, who are based in Tawi Tawi, are believed to be working with Abu Sayyaf groups under the control of bandits Indang Susukan, Alhabsy Misaya, Anga Adji and Yasser Igasan.
They have been blamed for most of the kidnappings in Sabah waters since Nov 15, 2013.