LAHAD DATU, Sabah (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - A farm manager kidnapped by gunmen is believed to have been taken to the notorious Abu Sayyaf stronghold of Jolo Island in southern Philippines.
Philippines officials indicated that the group could already be on the island as an intensive search along the Tawi Tawi chain of islands straddling Sabah's sea borders failed to reveal any traces of the abductors and their speedboat.
Tawi Tawi police chief Col Joey Salido, when contacted by The Star, said they had called off the air and sea hunt for the suspects on Tuesday after receiving reports that the gunmen were in the Sulu province.
"On being informed (by Malaysian authorities on Tuesday morning), the navy, coastguards and police launched a hunt for gunmen and their victim but we made no sightings.
"I was informed by the Naval Task Force 62 commander that the gunmen had entered Sulu area. We called off the operations," he said, explaining that helicopters were deployed towards the border islands of Sibutu and Panglima Sagula to hunt for the suspects.
However, Sulu officials said they had yet to receive any good leads on the gunmen's whereabouts.
On Tuesday, five gunmen sneaked into the Wonderful Terrace Sdn Fish Farm at Lahad Datu's Silam and abducted Mr Yang Zai Lin, a Chinese national, at about 2.45am.
A brief gunfight broke out between the gunmen and pursing Malaysian security forces but they managed to escape with their victim.