Two arrested over 'fish-bombing' deaths in Sabah, manhunt on for more suspects

KOTA KINABALU (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Malaysian police have launched a massive manhunt for those involved in the deaths of three divers in waters off Pulau Kalapuan in Sabah's renowned diving haven of Semporna.

Police have so far arrested a 24-year-old boatman and a 23-year-old guide in connection over the deaths of the trio.

The deceased have been identified as local divemaster Ab Zainal Abdu, 30, as well as Chinese nationals Zhao Zhong and Xu Yingjie, both 26, who were diving near the island at around 5pm on Friday (July 5) when the incident occurred.

Police are coordinating follow-up operations in Semporna to locate more suspects, believed to be sea gypsies.

Sources said initial investigations indicated that the deaths were due to fish-blasting activities as police found a lot of dead fish in the area where the trio were killed.

There were also signs of damage to nearby coral, as well as to the divers' diving equipment.

Their bodies were found at a depth of 5.8m and were limp, possibly from the blast.

The source said that the two suspects had told police that they dropped off Mr Ab Zainal and the two tourists at the dive site around 2.30pm.

The divers were told to plan their dives that would take them towards the Kalapuan jetty about 50m away, where there were fresh oxygen tanks.

An hour later, the two suspects returned to the dive site and oddly found sea foam around the area and immediately called for assistance.

Another diver known as Sam helped to pull out the lifeless bodies of the three divers out of the water by 4.50pm and the bodies were sent to Tawau Hospital for post-mortem.