Esscom: 361 isles are hideout haven

KOTA KINABALU: Cross-border criminals have 361 islands in the Eastern Sabah Safety Zone (Esszone) to choose from to hide from the authorities.

Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) has identified some of the islands used by criminals to move undetected between southern Philippines and Sabah.

Its director-general, Datuk Mohammad Mentek, said yesterday kidnapping groups, pirates and smugglers island-hopped to avoid security forces.

“Some of the islands are occupied, but there are also many small, uninhabited islands,” he said during a dialogue between Esscom and representatives from the Kadazandusun Murut (KDM) community here.

Islands that are spread out from Kudat to Tawau are some of the many challenges faced by security forces when it comes to preventing intrusion.

“Semporna has the most number of islands at 83, followed by Kudat, Sandakan and the rest.

“Some islands are close to Philippine waters, enabling culprits to escape easily.”

Mohammad said such small islands could not be seen on maps.

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