A Taiwanese tourist was shot dead yesterday at a secluded island resort off Borneo and his female companion apparently kidnapped by unidentified assailants, Malaysian police said.
Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said local police had informed its representative office in Malaysia and sent officials to help deal with the case.
The incident occurred at about 1am yesterday on Pom Pom Island, a popular scuba diving site in the eastern state of Sabah on Borneo.
According to a report by the English-language Malaysian daily the Star, 57-year-old Hsu Li-min was found dead with two bullet wounds in his chest early yesterday in his water villa on the resort on Pom Pom Island following an alleged attack by a group of Filipino gunmen.
The victim’s female companion, identified as 58-year-old Chang An-wei, was abducted, the report said, adding that Malaysian security forces have launched a massive sea and air hunt for the gunmen, who fled toward Pulau Mataking, another Malaysian island closer to the southwestern tip of the Philippine archipelago.
In the wake of the incident, the ministry yesterday raised its travel alert for Sabah area to “orange,” advising travelers to postpone their trip.
Borneo police chief Hamza Taib said the door of the water villa, which sits on stilts in the sea, was locked and the assailants likely came by boat and gained access through the bathroom.
A resort security guard heard gunshots and informed authorities, who found the man’s body, he said.
The case underlines persistent security threats in Sabah, which is just a short boat ride from the southern Philippines. Border security has long been problematic, with illegal immigrants and suspected criminals often slipping past naval patrols and entering Sabah by sea.
Hamza said the assailants were unlikely to be Abu Sayyaf Muslim militants from the southern Philippines, who have entered Sabah in the past and abducted Western tourists and Malaysian workers for ransom.
“There is no evidence to show it’s done by Abu Sayyaf. We treat this as a criminal case,” he said.
In February, an estimated 200 armed Filipinos appeared at a remote coastal village and refused to leave, insisting that Sabah belonged to their royal clan.
The territorial claim, rejected by Malaysia, triggered gunbattles that killed eight Malaysian policemen, a soldier and scores of Filipino gunmen and alleged sympathizers who provided them with shelter, food and information.
Additional reporting by AP, CNA and staff writer