KUALA LUMPUR - The Abu Sayyaf terrorist group is believed to be behind the murder and kidnap on the picturesque Pom Pom Island, off the coast of Sabah.
"Based on their modus operandi, we believe that there is a link with the Abu Sayyaf group. The initial information we have is that they came in a small group of eight," said Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar.
He noted that the group, believed to have ties with the al-Qaeda, was notorious for ransom kidnapping, but said no demands had been made for the safe return of Taiwanese national Chang An Wei, 58.
The gunmen, who raided the island resort on Friday, a 45-minute boat ride from Semporna in Sabah, shot dead her husband Hsu Li Min, 57, after entering one of the five chalets through a toilet window at about 1am.
They were reported to have fled towards Pulau Mataking, close to southern Philippines. A massive sea and air search has been launched for them and the woman.
Khalid told reporters at Bukit Aman yesterday: "They are a band of opportunists who took advantage of the mobilisation of the Philippine armed forces up north due to the Haiyan disaster to commit terrorist acts."
Khalid did not rule out the involvement of locals in the planning of the raid, and said police were investigating if these individuals were Sabahans or Filipinos who slipped through the border.
As for the role of the Eastern Sabah Security Command, he said: "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 the Malaysian armed force had been mobilised to step up security over areas in Semporna, Sandakan and Tawau, as well as to comb the eastern Sabah waters for the gunmen and woman.
"I wish that she (Chang) is not in Philippine waters. We have contacted the Philippine 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."
The incident has sent shockwaves among Sabahans, especially after the Feb 12 Sulu intrusion in Lahad Datu.