Security forces are bracing for revenge attacks following the killing of three cross border kidnappers and the capture of two others in Sabah.
Responding to claims in the Philippines that the Abu Sayyaf group was planning a revenge attack, Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Abdul Rashid Harun (pic) said they had yet to identify the three dead men.
"We are still interrogating the two kidnappers in our custody.
"As for now, the search is still on for two more suspected kidnappers and a missing hostage," he said, adding that all three were last spotted on a boat during Thursday's shootout in waters off Pulau Gaya, Semporna.
The brazen kidnapping and robbing spree by seven Filipino gunmen ended with them facing off with the police elite Tiger Platoon.
Abdul Rashid said the gunmen were believed to have entered Sabah via international waters.
He said the security forces were working closely with their Philippine counterparts.
The latest was the ninth such incident in waters off Sabah's east coast this year.
The Straits Times, citing Philippine officials, reported that Malaysia's security forces have dealt a serious blow to the Abu Sayyaf group by killing the leader of a squad that has been snatching tourists, fishermen and sailors in waters off Sabah and the Philippines' Sulu archipelago.
Abraham Hamid, the alleged kingpin, was among the three men killed during the gunfight.
"His death is a big blow to the Abu Sayyaf as it neutralised one of the notorious bandits' leader and will degrade their capabilities in the future," Major Filemon Tan, spokesman of the Western Mindanao Command, said in the report.
The other two slain were Hamid's men. Hamid-led bandits have snatched two Canadians, a Norwegian and a Filipina from a high-end resort in Samal island, Davao province in September last year.
The Canadians - Robert Hall, 50, and John Ridsdel, 68, - were beheaded in April and June this year.
Filipina Maritess Flor, 40, was released in June while Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad was freed in September after a ransom was paid.
Major Tan tagged Hamid as a "spotter" who commanded a unit that prowled the porous borders separating Sabah and Sulu, looking for victims whom they would then hand over to bigger groups in the Abu Sayyaf's jungle strongholds in Sulu and Basilan islands.
He also confirmed reports that two others - Samsung Aljan and Awal Hajal - had been arrested.
Meanwhile, Deputy Home Minister Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed credited strong police intelligence and close co-operation with neighbouring countries have led to the foiling of the latest kidnap-for-ransom attempt by a group of Filipino gunmen.