SEMPORNA - Simunul villagers were horrified to hear news that one of the six dead policemen was beheaded and two others were tortured after an ambush by Sulu gunmen.
"It's terrible, it's cruel," said fisherman Azmi who has been living close to Lorong 5 of Kampung Simunul, where the shooting began on Saturday evening.
"We are Suluks living here for more than 50 years. They are bad people," said one woman, referring to the gunmen.
Other villagers claimed that they had heard of one gunman recording the beheading on his mobile phone and had sent the clip to the police.
Asked if revenge could be behind the barbaric act, Semporna district officer Abdul Mohd Ibnu Abdul Kadir said: "It is their culture."
Yesterday, Semporna town was deserted again from 1.30pm when businesses and shops pulled down the shutters. The only movements were of the police rushing to Kampung Salimbaangun, not far from Kampung Simunul.
One villager claimed that shots were heard at about 3.30pm.
"With that, the remaining villagers left the area," he said.
Throughout the day, security forces held onto defensive positions at strategic locations in the town.
However, no confirmation was available on the phone clip or the alleged torture of two of the six policemen who had gone with a team of 56 on Saturday to check on information that sympathisers of the Sulu Sultan had stored weapons in one of the stilt houses in the village.
Police sources said as they approached a house at Lorong 5 of the sprawling seaside squatter settlement at about 7pm, shooting broke out with the gunmen.