Some of the suspects fished out of sea after the shootout in waters off Semporna.
It was a night of high drama at Sabah’s east coast Darvel Bay when, for the first time, Malaysian security forces came into direct confrontation with Filipino gunmen involved in cross-border kidnappings.
Three suspected kidnappers were shot dead and three others captured in a 20-minute gunfight between the police's Tiger Platoon and eight gunmen in waters off Pulau Bodgaya in Semporna at 9.40pm Thursday.
A policeman was shot in the foot during the shootout and was airlifted back to Semporna hospital at 1.50am Friday.
The whereabouts of two other suspects could not be immediately ascertained as security personnel continue to comb the area.
The General Operations Force Tiger Platoon, led by a corporal, immediately gave chase as the gunmen attempted to board the trawler.
A gunfight broke out in pitch darkness and it was only after the violence stopped did they find the three bodies of the suspects.
Police said three suspected gunmen were arrested after they surrendered. A kidnap victim believed to be a fisherman was rescued.
Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Abdul Rashid Harun is expected to give more details later Friday.
It is widely believed that cross-border kidnap groups have been responsible for at least six of the nine robberies and kidnappings in the east coast this year.
They are believed to be based in the Tawi Tawi chain of islands close to Sabah waters.