KUALA LUMPUR • Malaysia's armed forces are investigating a possible leak of classified intelligence between officers and agencies under the Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) which may have been used by kidnappers.
General Zulkifeli Mohd Zin, Malaysia's Chief of Armed Forces, said he was inclined to agree with Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi as kidnappings were happening too smoothly.
"They always seem to know where to show up and where to target, like the most recent one last Thursday," he said at a press conference on Friday.
On Wednesday, Datuk Seri Zahid said he was not ruling out the possibility that Esscom personnel might have leaked vital information to cross-border kidnappers, allowing them to launch attacks in the waters off Sabah, including abducting a fishing trawler owner on Tuesday.
But the owner, Mr Ruslan Nasir Sarapin, 39, has been released by his Filipino abductors, police said yesterday, without disclosing immediate details on the events leading to the quick release of the hostage.
Gen Zulkifeli questioned how the abductors knew the exact location of the boat at that time and that its owner would be on board.
"The abductors were not just wandering around hoping to come across targets. They must have identified their targets based on hard information," he said.
Gen Zulkifeli, who is also the director-general of the National Security Council, said the kidnappers also seemed to know the locations of patrolling ships in order to avoid detection.
"This, coupled with the vast 1,700km stretch of the Sabah shoreline, makes our job of safeguarding the waters very difficult," he said.
Gen Zulkifeli was speaking to the press after attending the handing over of duties ceremony between outgoing Armed Forces Joint Force Commander Shahrani Mohd Sany and incoming Lieutenant-General Fadzil Mokhtar.
Prime Minister Najib Razak said information leaks are not an excuse for security forces not to make more concerted efforts to end the kidnapping problem.
"I feel that this is a blow to us and the Deputy Prime Minister feels the same," Datuk Seri Najib said. "Nevertheless, we want new actions by the security forces, which I will take up with them."
THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK