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April 5, 2014

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Kidnapped city woman held on Philippine isle

THE Shanghai tourist and Filipino worker kidnapped by gunmen from a Malaysian resort have been taken to an island township in the Philippines’ southernmost province, authorities said yesterday.

A gang of seven kidnappers, believed to be Abu Sayyaf militants, took the two women to Simunul in Tawi-Tawi province, Philippine presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said, citing a military report.

The women, 29-year-old Gao Huayun from Shanghai and 40-year-old Marcy Dayawan from the Philippines, were seized late on Wednesday from the Singamata Reef Resort in Semporna district in the eastern Malaysian state of Sabah. The resort is popular with Chinese tourists.

A naval task force is searching for the gunmen and their captives around Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi provinces, which comprise scores of islands where the militants operate, regional military spokeswoman Captain Rowena Muyuela said.

The kidnappers armed with rifles arrived at the resort on a speedboat. They seized Gao from the balcony of her room, while Dayawan was a receptionist there, police said.

China said its consulate in the Malaysian city of Kuching had mobilized staff to deal with the kidnapping and urged local authorities to ensure the safety of Chinese citizens.

The Abu Sayyaf, a militant Muslim group, has carried out seaborne kidnappings in the region before. In 2000, gunmen snatched 21 European tourists and Malaysian and Filipino workers from the Sipadan diving resort. They were eventually released in exchange for large ransom payments.

The Abu Sayyaf had links to international militant networks, including al-Qaida, but a US-assisted Philippine military crackdown has weakened it considerably in recent years. The group, which is on the US list of terror groups, has about 300 fighters and is now much more focused on ransom kidnappings than global jihad.

Previous abductions

The Semporna resort kidnappers were likely involved in two previous abductions of tourists in Sabah, a Malaysian official said yesterday.

“One is thought to have been involved in the kidnapping of a Taiwan woman in 2013 and the rest are believed to have been linked to the Sipadan island kidnapping in 2000,” Eastern Sabah Security Command director-general Datuk Mohammad Mentek said.

Gao and Dayawan are being held on an island in the southern Philippines and are in good shape, he said.

Mohammad said the local Filipino community may have given information to the kidnappers, adding that 15 foreign workers at the resort have been held for not having valid documents, he said.


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