The suspects involved in a shootout with customs personnel in Semporna waters last Friday are believed to be fuel smugglers, according to the Royal Malaysian Customs Department.
Its deputy director-general Datuk Abdul Latif Abdul Kadir (Enforcement and Compliance) said a five-man party from the Lahad Datu marine customs was conducting an operation when they encountered the suspected smugglers near the popular tourist island of Pulau Bohey Dulang.
“Based on a public tip-off, at about 3.45pm on December 20, our team launched an operation using an interceptor boat of KG103 from the Lahad Datu marine customs jetty to Pulau Omadal.
“On approaching Pulau Bohey Dulang, they spotted a suspicious-looking blue- and white-striped wooden boat with seven people on board.
“Our personnel switched on the beacon light with siren and tried to intercept the speeding boat (25-30 knots). However, it suddenly came to a halt and the suspects shot at our personnel from about 200 metres,” he told a press conference at the Labuan Customs Community Hall in Kg Bukit Kuda before visiting the Labuan ferry terminal here today.
Abdul Latif said the customs personnel then stopped their boat and returned fire to protect themselves.
“As the suspected smugglers fled towards international waters, our personnel sought assistance from the Royal Malaysia Police and Eastern Sabah Security Command (ESSCom),” he said.
He said that was the first shootout involving customs personnel this year.
“We are grateful that none of our personnel was injured and there was no damage to our asset in the incident. Our personnel lodged a police report at the Semporna police station soon after the incident,” Abdul Latif said.
Semporna police chief Supt Sabarudin Rahmat had said that the shootout happened at 5.30pm on December 20.
ESSCom commander Datuk Hazani Ghazali had said that about 50 shots were fired in the shootout.
“However, the gunshots did not strike the customs boat and no personnel were injured,” he said. — Bernama