88 migrants who escaped from Malaysian detention centre still at large: Police

Kedah police chief Wan Hassan Wan Ahmad said the police will continue the operation to find the escapees. PHOTO: THE STAR PUBLICATION

BANDAR BAHARU (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The Malaysia authorities are on the hunt for 88 undocumented migrants who are still roaming the country after escaping from an Immigration detention centre in the north on Wednesday (April 20).

Kedah police chief, Commissioner Wan Hassan Wan Ahmad, said the police will continue the operation to find the escapees, comprising 71 men, nine women and eight children. All of them are from the stateless Rohingya community from Myanmar.

"We will continue efforts to find the remaining detainees in the surrounding areas," he said at a news conference after attending an event on Friday.

He said later that two male detainees, believed to be among the masterminds behind the break-out by 528 Rohingya inmates at the Sungai Bakap Immigration Detention Depot on Wednesday (April 20), were recaptured on Thursday (April 21).

The Kedah police chief said the arrested masterminds were a 34-year-old detainee who was moved there from the Immigration Detention Depot in Semenyih, Selangor, three years ago and a 30-year-old man.

Police are still looking for two more masterminds of the break-out, he said.

Mr Wan Hassan said that the manhunt involves 287 officers and personnel from the Kedah, Penang and Perak police contingents.

He said that besides the police contingents, the General Operations Force - the paramilitary arm of the police - has also been deployed to help in the operation.

"The manhunt will also involve air surveillance, canine police teams, roadblocks and assistance from other agencies as well," he said.

On Wednesday, a protest at around 5am at the detention centre quickly turned into a riot and more than 500 detainees escaped.

By midnight on Thursday, 448 escaped detainees had been captured and transferred to four separate Immigration depots - Langkap in Perak, Machap Umboo in Melaka, and Semenyih and Bukit Jalil in Selangor.

During the escape, six detainees, including two children, were killed on the southbound side of the North-South Expressway while trying to cross the highway near Jawi.

Commissioner Wan Hassan warned villagers not to harbour the escapees, saying that those who were found could be prosecuted under the law.

"We believe the escapees are hungry now, and if they come to ask for assistance, please alert the police who have been stationed in all areas in the vicinity," he said.

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