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Joint assault on Filipino kidnap gangs plan
Published on: Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Kota Kinabalu: Joint assault operations to end cross border crimes originating from Southern Philippines are being mulled by both Philippines and Malaysia.

Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) Intelligence Director Datuk Ahmad Nadzer Nordin said joint military operations into the militants' hideouts in the southern provinces were raised during a visit by the Esscom Director-General to Manila about a month ago.

"However there are various negative implications in organising a military campaign against them. Such as human rights apart from risking the lives of innocent civilians," he said after delivering his presentation at the Third Sabah Oil and Gas Conference, here.

Ahmad Nadzer was commenting on a question posed by the organising chairwoman of the conference, Datuk Adeline Leong, over the possibility of Malaysia engaging in a "counter attack" on the kidnap-for-ransom groups.

It is understood a possible result of a military campaign against the groups is a community backlash, where Filipinos in the troubled region view them as modern day "Robin Hoods."

"The loot they receive from the ransom are also being shared with their people," said Ahmad Nadzer, who had earlier made it clear that the groups, about 14 of them, were driven by "money" to stage these kidnappings.

"It's a livelihood for them," he added.

Nonetheless, he noted the Philippines has a tough set of laws against border crimes, including capital punishment if found guilty, and that there are two agencies that dealt directly with the issue.

Ahmad Nadzer named the Presidential Anti-Organised Crime Commission, whose executive powers are directly under the President, and the Anti-Kidnapping Group (AKG), which are tasked with stopping abductions.

However, he said the focus of work of AKG, at the moment, was only in Manila and was uncertain whether their work will be expanded to the provinces.

"At the moment Malaysia is working closely with the Philippines on intelligence work, and we are still discussing whether we can do any joint operation.

"Right now, we can't rush in, and we still need to negotiate on the hostages and formulate measures to prevent more abductions," he said.

Ahmad Nadzer also said Esscom is in the midst of upgrading its aging radars to counter any form of illegal entry.

However, he said radar is not a viable solution to intrusion, saying that "it's just looking at symbols" on the monitor, "without knowing what the object really is."

"A patrol party is still needed to be sent out to search for the moving object. Still the best way is sharing of information between authorities from both countries," he maintained.

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