Jumaat, 14 Februari 2014

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Shot and hacked but he lived to tell

Posted: 13 Feb 2014 08:00 AM PST

SEMPORNA: On March 2, 2013, Special Branch officer Insp Mohd Hasnal Jamil entered the notorious water village of Simunul, Semporna, with a group of about 60 men to hunt down Sulu gunmen following a tip-off that they were hiding there.

He was not to know that it would turn out to be a nightmare for him. He was shot and hacked with a sharp object – but lived to tell the tale.

The search operation turned into a pitched battle when the gunmen opened fire on the Malaysian forces.

"We announced that we were police and we asked those inside the house to cooperate with us. They answered with continuous gunfire," said Insp Hasnal.

He said he ducked for cover behind a nearby house, but a bullet hit him in the abdomen.

"The bullet pierced through the wooden planks and hit me on the left side of my abdomen. I couldn't see what was happening in front of me because it was dark. The only thing I could make out were flashes of light from the shots fired," he said.

"I lay face down on the ground to avoid getting hit again. It was then that I was set upon by a gunman and my head was hacked three times with a sharp object. When the blade hit me, I felt blood oozing down my face."

Despite his injuries, Insp Hasnal stood up to face his attacker.

"I raised my hand in self-defence and was hacked another three times. He kept on attacking even when I fought back.

"Seeing another injured officer run into a house where some of our forces were seeking cover, I turned to follow him and left my attacker behind," he said.

Only upon entering the house did Insp Hasnal realise the extent of his injuries.

"During the fight, I did not notice that my hands had been hacked. Kebas dah masa tu (I did not feel anything then)," he said.

Insp Hasnal and the other officers held out in the house for hours waiting for back-up.

"The pain was terrible. I felt like I was dying. The wounds were open and I had a small rag to cover it. By the next day, the blood had dried and flies were gathering around it," he said.

Insp Hasnal added that he was awake throughout the entire 22-hour ordeal until the policemen were rescued the next day at 5.30pm by VAT69 commandos and Special Operations forces.

"An officer who was with me in the house told us that help was coming, but I was not sure how long it would take," he said.

"I had to strengthen my resolve. Every hour or so, I had to fight from blacking out. We tried to forget the pain. We talked among each other and thought about other things. If I kept thinking about dying, then I would have died."

Insp Hasnal survived the ordeal with a bullet wound in the abdomen and two shots to his hand. He also had six hack wounds on his skull and hand. One of the bones near his wrist was hacked, and veins on the palm of his hand were severed.

"I was not aware that I had been shot in the hand until later," said Insp Hasnal, who can now carry on his duties, except for limited function of his right hand.

"If you are not up for it, then it is best not to take up policing work. As long as we are serving our country, we must do what is needed. If I am asked to return for such a mission, I will go," he said.

The next few days, Malaysians were shocked and outraged to discover that when the bodies of three officers were found, they were badly mutilated.

Villagers of the notorious Kampung Simunul were not aware of the danger that had invaded their village.

"At first, we thought they were good people, people who observed their prayers," said a 50-year-old Bajau villager who wished to be known as Jamboi.

It was only during the shootout with police officers on March 2 that villagers were made aware that their new neighbours were not what they seemed.

"It had nothing to do with us. They were not from here," said an ethnic Suluk-Sungei fisherman Didy Omar.

Didy felt that the branding of "notoriety" of the village was not fair as the attack was carried out by people who came to the village.

"We are victims, too," said the 31-year-old father of nine, referring to plans for the water village to be demolished as part of measures to strengthen Sabah's east coast against intrusions.

Didy fled the village with his family and only returned about a week later when things started to improve.

Walking out of the water village into Semporna town, one can't help but wonder about the future of the hundreds of families in Simunul, and whether the aftermath of March 2013 will continue to affect their lives even after peace is restored.

Related stories:

Wounds yet to heal

Wounds yet to heal

Posted: 13 Feb 2014 08:00 AM PST

SEMPORNA: The water village of Simunul in Semporna is still recovering from the brutal attack and ambush of policemen by Sulu gunmen last year.

A year on, some semblance of normalcy has returned to Kg Simunul but the scars that run through the stilted wooden village have yet to heal.

Locals have picked up the scattered pieces of their lives which were turned upside down by the Sulu incursion.

Many stilt houses have been demolished and physical marks of the attack have been washed away and repaired but the water village of 4,500 people remains wary of strangers.

Villagers look suspiciously at outsiders walking around and some even venture to demand what the visitors are doing in their village where each house now bears the name of its owner and his identity card number.

"Kau orang mana? Datang dengan siapa? (Where are you from? Who did you come with?)," a villager brusquely asked a passing journalist.

After an explanation, the villager warmed up and offered a smile.

"I left when the attack happened. A month later, I returned but I was still a bit fearful. That feeling is now gone," said a 35-year-old Bajau stall owner.

Asked if there was still danger, 41-year-old Norpaidah Samad dismissed feelings of anxiety over another attack.

"Three days after the incident, I returned home with my family. I am not afraid anymore. The village head asked for us to come home and we did," said the mother-of-five.

Kg Simunul village head Panglima Ramlee Saraman said they were working together with the police and providing information on outsiders.

Guiding the way through a labyrinth of rickety walkways above a muddy ground, Ramlee helped break the ice between villagers and journalists.

Although what happened is a tragedy, Ramlee said the incident had brought a sense of unity and awareness.

As the 57-year-old village head moved across rows of houses, villagers called out greetings – there is no doubt that the village head is a well-respected man.

During the exchange of fire last year, it was Ramlee who gathered a group of villages and crossed into invader-controlled Simunul village to recover the bodies of fallen police officers and Sulu invaders.

"If the commandos had gone in, there was fear that they may have been shot. So, I asked for body bags and went in with the help of the local Islamic authorities instead. Before entering, we called out to explain our purpose and were let in and out without any harm.

"By then, the bodies had been left for two days and were in a bad state," he said forlornly."

The fishing village of about 1,217 houses is also home to workers in the tourism industry, government servants and private sector workers.

As to what becomes of the villages after this, no one knows. Word has been going around of a planned relocation but no decision has been made.

No live match but Everton fan treated to a sweet tour

Posted: 13 Feb 2014 08:00 AM PST

PETALING JAYA: An Everton fan who made the journey to England to catch his favourite club in action almost came home disappointed due to a game postponement.

He was, however, spared the agony by a photograph which he tweeted.

Malaysian Bar secretary Richard Wee, who was eager to watch the match of his lifetime, arrived early at Goodison Park and posted a picture of him looking excited with the stadium in the background.

"Finally, 30 years since supporting @Everton, will b watching EFC 'live' for 1st time. @MyToffees," he wrote.

His excitement was cut short when the police and safety officer advised that the match between Everton and Crystal Palace be postponed due to bad weather.

The game was supposed to take place on Wednesday evening.

Wee's photo, which he tweeted about an hour before the postponement was announced on Everton's Twitter account, later went viral.

Officials from Everton Fan Club saw the photo and somehow managed to locate Wee.

Wee, who was accompanied by his daughter and fellow fan Ridhwan Razak, was then taken on a tour which included the players' lounge and dressing room. He also chatted with club manager Roberto Martinez and player Leighton Baines.

In one of the photos tweeted out by an official at Everton Football Club, Baines was seen signing club merchandise for Wee.

"Wish to thank @Everton for the great hospitality. Really appreciate it," Wee tweeted.

Stories on Wee's experience with Everton also appeared on foreign sports websites. The photo has now reached about 7,300 retweets.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

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