ZAMBOANGA CITY: Sabah has extended its dusk-to-dawn curfew due to threats posed by the pro-Islamic State's Abu Sayyaf group and criminal gangs victimizing Malaysians and foreign citizens.
Malaysia media quoted Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Idris Abdullah as saying that the 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. sea curfew has been extended until October 27 due to continuous threats from cross-border criminals including kidnap-for-ransom gangs.
The curfew has been imposed since 2014 following the spate of Abu Sayyaf ransom kidnappings in Sabah. It covers areas up to 3 nautical miles off Tawau, Semporna, Kunak, Lahad Datu, Kinabatangan, Sandakan and Beluran.
"There is a need to continue the curfew in these waters to prevent the encroachment of terrorists and criminals who can threaten the safety of locals, international researchers and tourists on the islands," the Star newspaper quoted Idris as saying on Monday.
Idris cited unnamed intelligence sources saying kidnap-for-ransom groups and Abu Sayyaf militants were still trying to attack and commit cross-border crimes. He said the curfew allows authorities to ensure the safety of the people of Sabah who use the waters and are staying near the Esszone or the Eastern Sabah Security Zone.
He added that the curfew was to facilitate enforcement and monitoring of boat activities in the area as well as to "establish a sense of security with nearby chalet owners and fishermen through the presence of a security team."
"I have also given the authority to all district police chiefs to issue permits to any eligible applicants who fit the criteria to conduct fishery activities in the areas affected by the curfew," Idris said.
The curfew was first implemented on July 19, 2014 after the Abu Sayyaf kidnap-slay of Sarawakian Bernard Then Ted Fed and the killing of several others including a policeman and tourists.
There was no immediate statement from the Filipino authorities on the Abu Sayyaf plans to kidnap or attack civilian targets in Sabah, which is only hours by boat from the southern Philippine province of Tawi-Tawi.