KOTA KINABALU (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Malaysian security forces have captured one of the five Muktadir brothers who are notorious for cross-border kidnappings in Sabah over the past year.
Police intensified their hunt for the brothers about two months ago and increased their surveillance of boats coming in from the southern Philippines.
Their hard work paid off early this week when police spotted a vessel trying to sneak into Semporna from Sitangkai Island in the Philippines, said a source.
Details remain sketchy at the moment but the boat was intercepted during a dusk to dawn sea curfew and all onboard were arrested.
As the foreigners were being taken into custody, one of the brothers named Nikson, was identified.
Married with one child, Nikson used to live with his family at the Bangau Bangau water village in Semporna. He is an expert boatman who knows the waters off Semporna well and has worked at some of the nearby island resorts.
Nikson reportedly provides the muscle and is a purveyor of high-powered boats that the gang uses for the kidnappings.
His other kin are Gadafi, Murphy Ambang Ladia @ Gulam and Ali aka Braun.
The brothers, whose late father was a notorious pirate, are believed to have more than 40 men in their gang.
Police said the Muktadirs were responsible for almost all the kidnappings in the east coast of Sabah since November last year.
The brothers were directly involved in the April 2 kidnapping of Chinese tourist Gao Huayun and Filipina worker Marcy Darawan from the Singamata Reef Resort in Semporna.
They were linked to the killing of marine policeman Kpl Abdul Rajah Jamuan, 32, and the kidnapping of another policeman, Kons Zakiah Aleip, 26, at Pulau Mabul on July 12.
Zakiah and fish farm operator Chan Sai Chuin, 32, who was abducted in Kunak on June 16, are still being held by an Abu Sayyaf terror group led by Al-Habsi Misaya in Jolo, the Philippines.
The brothers kidnap victims from Sabah and sell them to the Abu Sayyaf groups, which in turn demand millions of ringgit in ransom.
Although police have Nikson in custody, he and the others in the boat have been classified as illegal immigrants.
Sabah Police Commissioner Deputy Comm Datuk Jalaluddin Abd Rahman declined to comment when contacted.