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Marine police crush gang of sea pirates

The Straits Times, 26 October 2000

The group of foreign pirates, using a high-powered boat, is believed to have staged 30 high-sea robberies on merchant ships and fishing boats

KUALA LUMPUR -- The Malaysian marine police have crushed a gang of foreign pirates believed to have staged 30 high-sea heists involving over RM1 million (S$459,000) worth of cash and goods.

Marine police commander SAC II Muhamad Muda said three men, aged between 22 and 32, from Selat Panjang, Sumatra, were detained off Batu Pahat by a special squad set up to deal with piracy in the Strait of Malacca.

The special squad had ambushed the pirates about midnight as they were preparing to commit a high-sea robbery, he told reporters.

However, three others managed to escape by jumping into the sea.

Police seized a sword, two parangs and a grille cutter in the operation.

Mr Muhamad said the gang was believed to have robbed 19 merchant ships and 11 local fishing boats.

All the incidents were reported to have occurred between Pulau Pisang, Pontian and Pulau Undan in Malacca.

The gang is believed to have used a high-powered fibreglass boat for the robberies.

Mr Muhamad said the marine police were tracking down another pirate gang, comprising four foreigners, still active in the Strait of Malacca.

There is still one more gang. We have identified them and are tracking them. It is believed that they have gone into hiding, he said.

Meanwhile, an illegal immigrant, believed to be the kingpin of a syndicate specialising in smuggling stolen motorcycles to Indonesia, was shot dead when he attacked the ambush party with a boat anchor.

Four others were arrested.

The Malacca Criminal Investigation Department chief, Assistant Commissioner Ahmad Nasiruddin Mohd Shari, said the Indonesian syndicate was using different places along the Malacca coastline as pick-up points for stolen motorcycles.

The syndicate was responsible for smuggling more than 100 stolen motorcycles to Indonesia during the past two months.

Acting on information, police set up an ambush along Pantai Klebang Kecil in Malacca.

About 1.30 am, a high-powered speedboat pulled ashore and several men were spotted loading motorcycles onto the speedboat.

One of the men attacked a policeman with an anchor as the police patrol were closing in.

Police fired at the man with the anchor and at the others when they ignored repeated warnings to surrender.

The attacker fell into the sea while the others jumped overboard.

Police managed to detain the other four Indonesians, two of whom had gunshot wounds.

About 8 am on Tuesday, fishermen found the body of a man washed ashore about 50 m from where the shooting took place.

He is believed to be the kingpin and had gunshot wounds.

The syndicate had been smuggling motorcycles for the past year and syndicate members were paid RM100 for each stolen motorcycle.

The syndicate members made trips to Malacca twice a week and took back about 10 motorcycles per trip to Pulau Rupat, Sumatra.

Police got their break when they arrested a lorry driver along the North-South Highway near Simpang Ampat, Alor Gajah, in May and recovered four stolen motorcycles. --Bernama