MALACCA - Police have got wind of a group trying to cause disturbance, including abduction, during Sabah's annual lepa regatta in Semporna and are on high alert over the matter.
"We know they were not only planning to kidnap people but also to invade the state," said Home Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi (above).
"We are also aware they were not targeting certain people but rather focused on areas they think were unsuspected by the authorities,'' he told reporters after opening the SM Imtiaz Ulul Albab school in Masjid Tanah, Alor Gajah yesterday.
He was responding to rumours earlier in the day of a plan by suspected Abu Sayyaf members to create disturbance at the three-day lepa regatta, a colourful annual festival that pays homage to the traditional single-mast sailing boat of the Bajau ethnic group from Semporna that ends today.
Online media reports had stated that security forces were on alert in districts such as Sandakan, Beluran and Kinabatangan, apart from Semporna and Lahad Datu which had been previous targets of militants.
Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar stated in Kuala Lumpur that they had received the information, adding that such threats were received from time to time and that each time the police would reinforce security in the high risk areas.
Dr Ahmad Zahid said security forces, such as the army, police and maritime enforcement agency, were always on their toes and advised the public to be patient and let the Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) handle the situation.
He added that the ministry had also informed the Philippines government so that they could be on the alert.
On the incident of the alleged abduction of three crew members and the seizure of a Japanese oil tanker carrying five million litres of diesel in the Straits of Malacca on Tuesday, Dr Ahmad Zahid believed there were "inside elements" involved.
"A thorough investigation is still ongoing. We need cooperation in the investigation and when it comes to making arrests later, as the case involves another country," he said.