KOTA KINABALU: It is a picturesque tropical paradise fringed by white sand and azure waters of the Celebes Sea.
The serenity of the Pom Pom Island Resort, a 45-minute boat ride from Semporna, Sabah, however, was shattered by gunshots early yesterday.
Unidentified armed men, who raided three of the five water villas at about 1am, killed Taiwanese tourist Hsu Lin Min, 57, and abducted his wife Chang An Wei, 58.
A massive sea and air search has been launched to locate the woman and the gunmen.
Hsu and Chang had checked into the resort Tuesday and were scheduled to leave on Wednesday.
The resort, located a kilometre away from a General Operations Force (GOF) base, is about a 30-minute boat ride away from international waters bordering the Tawi Tawi islands off the Philippines.
Police have dismissed earlier suspicions that the gunmen could be members of armed groups from southern Philippines.
Sabah Police Commssioner Datuk Hamza Taib said the crimes could have been committed by criminals and not any known armed group, including the Abu Sayyaf.
He said based on previous cases, such crimes could be committed by ordinary criminals who could pass the victims to other groups, he said, adding that police had notified their counterparts in the Philippines and intensified searches within the islands in Semporna.