ZAMBOANGA CITY – Malaysia has tagged an Abu Sayyaf group linked to previous kidnappings in Sabah as behind the latest raid and abduction of a Chinese tourist and a Filipino worker in a Sabah resort.
At least seven gunmen raided the Singamata Adventures and Reef Resort in the town of Semporna in Sabah on April 2 and seized 29-year-old Chinese tourist Gao Huayun and Filipino resort worker Marcy Dayawan, 40.
A report by Malaysia’s online newspaper The Star quoted Datuk Mohammad Mentek, director general of the Eastern Sabah Security Command, as saying the two victims are being held by Abu Sayyaf insurgents who were also involved in the 2000 kidnappings of 21 mostly European holidaymakers and Asian workers at the Pulau Sipadan resort, and the kidnapping in November of a Taiwanese woman on Pom Pom Island.
“We believe that this particular ‘kidnap for ransom’ group is active and aggressive in the southern Philippines,” Mohammad said, adding that the local Filipino community in Semporna might have provided information to the gunmen.
He said 15 foreign employees of the resort have been detained for working without valid documents.
Police also said four employees were arrested on suspicion they were involved or have provided information to the raiders. Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Hamza Taib confirmed that three women and a man aged between 20 and 50 have been arrested for questioning.
Police in southern Philippines said there have been no sightings of the Abu Sayyaf raiders and their hostages. “We have no reports that the Abu Sayyaf tagged in the raid in Sabah have landed in Sulu, but we are continuously monitoring the situation on the ground,” Senior Superintendent Abraham Orbita, the Sulu police chief, told The Manila Times.
“We are exerting efforts to search and locate the kidnapped victims in probable areas in Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi where they could have been brought. Naval Task Force 62 is now conducting an extensive search while other units in the area have been on high alert,” marine Captain Maria Rowena Myuela, a spokeswoman for the Western Mindanao Command, said.
Citing an intelligence report, a Philippine Army spokesman, Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, told reporters in Manila that the abductors landed in Simunul Island off Tawi-Tawi province, but subsequent military operations in the area yielded negative results.
The Abu Sayyaf under Radullan Sahiron was largely blamed for the daring raid on the posh Pulau Sipadan resort in 2000 where they kidnapped 21 people and ransomed them off to Malaysia and Libya for at least $25 million.
In November, the Abu Sayyaf kidnapped a Taiwanese tourist Chang An Wei, 58, after killing her husband Hsu Li Min, 57, in a cross-border raid in Sabah’s Pom Pom Island. The woman was eventually released a month later near the village of Liban in Talipao town in Sulu after paying ransom. The Abu Sayyaf has resorted to ransom kidnappings to raise money for the purchase weapons and fund terror attacks in the Philippines.