KUALA LUMPUR: Police believe the gunmen who shot dead a Taiwanese tourist and kidnapped his wife in Pom Pom Island, Semporna, on Friday had links to terrorist group Abu Sayyaf.
Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar said Saturday the group was notorious for ransom kidnapping but said no demands had been made for the safe return of Taiwanese national Chang An Wei, 58.
"The initial information we have is that there were eight of them.
"They were a band of opportunists that took advantage of the security void left by Filipino border authorities that had been moved to concentrate on the Haiyan disaster up north," he said.
Khalid also did not rule out the involvement of locals in the planning of the raid, but said police were investigating if these individuals were Sabahans or Filipinos who slipped through the border.
"The Eastern Sabah Security Command (ESSCOM) is still new. People have to understand that it is a very wide area of 1,400km to cover and we can't be everywhere at once.
"These men planned a 'hit and run' raid with the locals which has made it hard for us to track them," he said.
Khalid also recommended that pump boats be banned from being used in shallow waters in Eastern Sabah.
"After the Lahad Datu incident, we announced that pump boats should be illegal around shallow areas.
"This may be difficult for the locals who use it daily but there shouldn't be any compromise in safety. The Sabah authorities should take drastic action against those who use pump boats as it is a mode of transportation used by people to slip in and out of the country," Khalid said.
He said the Malaysian Armed Force have stepped up security over areas in Semporna, Sandakan and Tawau, as well as to comb the Eastern Sabah waters for the suspects and the victim.
"I hope that she (Chang) is not in Filipino waters. We have contacted the Filipino border authorities to search on their side.
"We are also sweeping our side as well to ensure they are not using our territory to hide the victim," said Khalid.
On Friday, gunmen believed to be local pirates, raided Pom Pom Island and Spa Resort water villas at about 1am.
They shot and killed Taiwanese tourist, Lim Min Hsu, 57, with two bullets to the chest and abducted Chang, and fled toward Pulau Mataking close to southern Philippines.
Police have launched a massive air and sea hunt for the gunmen.
The incident has sent shockwaves through Sabahans, especially after the setting up of the Eastern Sabah Security Zone (ESSZONE) following the Feb 12 Sulu intrusion into Kg Tanduo in Lahad Datu.