KOTA KINABALU, Oct 31 — The mysterious shootout in Penampang New Township yesterday saw two suspects — believed linked to Sulu militants — shot dead after they were tailed for an hour by two police special task force units.
Sabah police commissioner Datuk Jalaluddin Abdul Rahman confirmed today that the two deceased, a 50 year-old and a 40-year-old, were Filipinos who were searching for their next robbery target.
“We are not denying that they may be Sulu militants, but let us run full investigations into their identities and background checks,” he said, adding that he can only confirm that they are Filipinos, even though one suspect was in possession of a Malaysian identity card.
A Bernama report last night said the two suspects were believed to be members of the Sulu Rebel Army and the “driving force” behind the recruitment of new members.
An unverified Whatsapp message purportedly from the police had identified the duo as a 45-year-old from Kampung Likas and a 50-year-old IMM 13 document holder from Labuan.
“Based on information we’ve been collecting for months, we believe that the two suspects were involved in three other armed robberies around the city this month alone, “ said Jalaluddin.
The robberies – on a goldsmith in Tuaran on October 16, an electrical shop in Penampang on October 6 and Tai Seng supermarket in Kota Kinabalu on October 9, saw the robber making off with almost RM2 million worth of goods and cash.
In the shooting yesterday, Jalaluddin said his task force had been tracking the movements of the suspects, travelling in a four-wheel-drive Isuzu D-Max pickup in the city since 3pm before they apprehended the vehicle in the township some 10km from Kota Kinabalu city centre.
“Our men got out to identify themselves as policemen but saw one of the suspects with a gun, and shouted “pistol”! In self-defense, the police opened fire and shot at the car,” he said.
They later found a “Browning” pistol, with one bullet in the chamber, and two bullet shells in the car, believed to be from the suspect.
Two special task force units, with 14 masked police bearing assault rifles were at the scene.
Police later cordoned off four blocks of shoplots to facilitate investigations, leaving the public to speculate the shootout.
“We seized the pistol and the casings, two mobile phones, and other personal belongings. We will run a through investigation and release the information within the next week,” said Jalaluddin.
He declined to comment on whether the two were part of a larger syndicate who were planning more armed robberies but said it was possible they were involved in other criminal activities in the state and were looking to make more arrests in the near future to facilitate investigations.
The case is being investigated under Section 307 of the Penal Code for attempted murder, and Section 395/397 for armed gang robbery.
Sabahans were taken by surprise last year when armed Sulu rebels from southern Philippines intruded into Sabah’s east coast districts of Lahad Datu and Semporna in February and killed which saw 10 Malaysian security force members killed.
Following the incident, the government set up the Eastern Sabah Security Zone and Eastern Sabah Security Command to deal with criminal activities, intrusions and security threats in the area.
Since then, the state has been awash with rumours of another Sulu intrusion.