SEMPORNA - Security forces in Sabah's east coast have launched Ops Gasak to neutralise potential informers working at island resorts around the famed diving haven of Sipadan.
Eight resort workers, including two with fake Malaysian identity cards, were arrested during an integrated operation led by Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) at four resorts on three islands off the district here.
Esscom director-general Datuk Mohammad Mentek said the operation was carried out at resorts on Mabul, Pom Pom and Kapalai, and focused on checking workers whom authorities believe might be informers for armed groups planning to kidnap tourists.
He said a total of 167 workers, comprising 70 Malaysians and 97 foreigners, were screened during the six-hour operation that began at 6am Sunday.
Nine were found with questionable documents - two Filipinos with fake identity cards, six with no work passes and one holding a false Malaysian identity card application receipt.
Action will be taken under the Immigration Act, while the National Registration Department and police will further investigate the identities and backgrounds of those detained.
"This is just the start of our operations under Ops Gasak to clean up island resorts of any illegals and our target is also to find any moles for the gunmen behind the kidnap and murder in Pom Pom," Mohammad told reporters at Kapalai Resort after the operations ended.
He said they were gathering intelligence and making the necessary risk assessments before continuing the operations at other resorts, lodges and homestays on various islands.
"It is important as we want to ensure tourists are safe," he said, adding that many tourists were happy with the presence of uniformed security forces.
He said in the Nov 15 murder and kidnap of a Taiwanese couple at Pom Pom Island Resort, authorities suspect that inside information was given to the gunmen as they knew which villa to break into.
Mohammad advised all resort owners to vet their list of employees as they were liable under immigration laws for harbouring and employing illegals.
He also warned house owners that they could be charged for harbouring illegal immigrants if they rented out their houses to them.