Published: Sunday March 10, 2013 MYT 5:08:00 PM
Updated: Sunday March 10, 2013 MYT 9:19:01 PM
Lahad Datu: The Star pixman's encounter with a gunman
LAHAD DATU: A drive to check out the situation at Kampung Tanjung Labian turned out to be an adventure of sorts for a team of journalists and photographers who stumbled upon an armed man near the remote coastal village some 160kms from here.
The media team including The Star's photographer Normimie Diun spotted the man wearing a dark tee shirt and trousers standing by the road side soon after their arrival at the village at about 10am.
During the drive into Tanjung Labian, the media team did not see any police roadblocks leading them to believe that the areas was secure.
As they continued driving in however, the sight that greeted them was that of a deserted village with clothes could still be seen hanging on drying lines indicating that the occupants had hastily left the area.
But to their surprise they also saw a man harvesting the oil palm trees at a distance.
Their worries had been heightened earlier upon seeing several white banners with red letters strung up on some trees.
The banners were put up by local villagers who opposed the takeover of their kampong land by Felda months before the arrival of the Sulu gunmen in Kg Tanduo on Feb 9.
Just a minute later, they saw a dark figure by the road side and realised that they had probably come across one of the armed Sulu gunmen involved in ongoing skirmishes with security forces at Kampung Tanjung Batu, some 2kms away and Kampung Tanduo nearby.
Recalling her shock at seeing the gunman, Normimie said the man ducked and disappeared into the bushes upon seeing the two vehicles the media team was travelling in.
''When I saw him, I shouted to the others inside the car to bend down and not show our cameras. My immediate thought was that he could have mistaken our equipment to be weapons and fire at us,'' said Normimie who was sitting at the back seat.
''We were scared because if he was a member of the security forces, he would have told up to turn back," she said.
At this point the group decided to make a U-turn and head back to the main Felda road.
As the media team reached the main Felda road, they came across about 30 Tanjung Labian villagers frightened after hearing four shots just minutes earlier.
One them, Achar Jalil said they were told by their village chief to remain in the area despite advice from Malaysian authorities to evacuate from the village on Monday.
Riding a motorcycle with his wife and two young children, Achar said he was worried about the fate of his elderly and sickly mother whom he had to leave behind.
As they left Tanjung Labian, the media team spotted a police personnel in truck heading into the area.
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