Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Jalaludin Abdul Rahman said the highly wanted person identified as Nikson Muktadil in his 30s, and his brother, Badong Muktadil @ Adzmil Muktadil in his 40s, from Pondohan, Balitang Sitangkai, Tawi-Tawi Philippines - were both linked to several KFR cases in Semporna.
He said Nikson who is involved in a KFR group in Pondohon, Tawi-Tawi, is also believed involved in the kidnapping case in Singamata Resort on April 2 this year and reportedly stayed in Kg Bangau-Bangau and Balitag Island in Semporna before fleeing to Philippines.
Badong who is connected with a KFR group in Pondohon was also reported to have 30 to 40 followers and four boats of 40 and 70 horsepower.
Badong is suspected involved in four kidnapping cases in Semporna and Lahad Datu, namely in Pom-Pom Resort (Nov. 15, 2013), Singamata Resort (April 2, 2014), Wonderful Terrace Sdn Bhd in Lahad Datu and the recent incident at Mabul Water Bungalow Resort in Mabul on July 12, 2014.
Police are still identifying the third suspect also believed to be Filipino.
Asked if the suspects were linked to militants in Southern Philippines, Jalaluddin said there are possibilities because based on information there are a lot of terrorist groups involved in the KFR.
"We urge the public to assist police in hunting the three suspects by providing information on their whereabouts," he told a press conference at the Semporna Marine Police Base, Saturday.
Also present were Sabah Region Marine Police Commander ACP Mohammad Madun and Semporna Police Chief Superintendent Mazlan Lazim.
Jalaluddin warned the public not to hide or protect or be in alliance with the wanted suspects as it is an offence. "Once we protect criminals, we are also considered as criminals É please alert our security enforcement or the district police chief should you come across any information," he stressed.
On another development, Jalaludin told reporters that a joint operation between police and the Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom), was conducted at three islands - Gaya, Maiga and Tatangan Island -where the three suspects are believed to be hiding.
He said 103 illegals were rounded up during the "cleaning operation", adding that after the warning shot incident, six marine boats were mobilised to the three islands to track down the suspects.
On the 5.30pm warning shot incident, Jalaluddin said, it happened in the curfew waters when a marine patrol boat came across the three men who were masked and with weapons on a white and blue boat.
"Our men fired a warning shot when the trio attempted 'to do something' resulting in a boat chase where the suspects escaped by going into shallow waters," he added.
In a related development, he hoped the curfew order strategy could obstruct any form of criminal activity, especially kidnapping, and it was proven with no recent cases so far in August after the April, May, June and July kidnapping cases.
He said police even received many requests from foreign tourists for the curfew to be extended.
Jalaluddin also urged fishermen affected by the curfew to apply for a permit and not to make the curfew a reason to hike the price of fish.
"Curfew is imposed for only 10 hours and they have 14 hours to fish," he said.
Meanwhile, Sabah United Chinese Chambers of Commerce (SUCCC) President Datuk Seri Panglima Gan Sau Wah expressed regret over misleading reports on the warning shot which sparked widespread panic in the East Coast.
Gan who is also the Semporna Chinese Chambers of Commerce President said: "As far as I know no gun battle occurred but the media (not Daily Express) reported it as if an intense shooting had taken place," he said, adding that this caused panic among the people, business sectors as well as foreign investors.
He received many phone calls from friends and business acquaintances here and abroad after the news hit the streets through printed and electronic media with many expressing their concern and some even withdrawing their intention to invest here for the time being.
"The media has a social obligation to society and must adhere to it, such report does not benefit us but is more burdensome to our livelihood, especially those living in Lahad Datu, Kunak and Semporna, where business is badly affected," he said.
Gan believed there must be some sort of control when dealing with highly sensitive issues and that the head of security forces must take into consideration the negative impact delivered to people before making any statement to the media.
"I hope security leaders would be more cautious when confronted by the media in future, as this would avoid unnecessary burden to the people and the business sectors as well as the State Government," he said.
Gan also hoped the media would do the same by taking into account the impact on the people before deciding to report and publish any article related to highly sensitive issues.
"We set up a new East Coast Security Unit headed by the Lahad Datu Chinese Chamber of Commerce President Mok Tian Sang who is expected to chair the first meeting early next month and discuss issues related to security in the East Coast as well as how we can contribute in achieving a common goal," he said.
He said over the years many Chinese businessmen and Chinese tourists had been the victims of kidnapping by foreign armed criminals.
"As the organisation representing the Chinese community in the State, SUCCC feels that it is our obligation to protect our members and Chinese business communities, as such this Unit was formed to play our role to assist the government to ensure Chinese business community adhere to the security guideline, assisting security forces in maintaining better security level and provide constructive suggestion to the government on security issues," he explained.
The members of the Unit comprise six Chinese Chambers of Commerce (CCC) in the Esszone area, Semporna CCC Secretary Gan Shi Wah is the Deputy Chairman of the Unit, Kunak CCC President Pong Kim Wai appointed as the Secretary of the Unit, while its committee members comprised of Tawau CCC President Lo Su Fui, Sandakan CCC President Chia Hock Ak and Kudat CCC President Pak Chee Eng.