Kidnappers demand 500M pesos ransom for Chinese national

Abu Sayaff group (Photo by RAFFY TIMA)

The abductors of the Chinese tourist and a Filipina resort worker taken from a diving resort off Semporna in Sabah have demanded ransom, Malaysian media reported yesterday.

Malaysian Home Minister Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi said the kidnappers were demanding RM36.4 million ($14 million) for the release of Chinese tourist Gao Hua Yuan.

The Straits Times quoted the Malaysian official as saying the kidnappers were demanding ransom in Philippine money.

“We have received a note that the kidnappers have asked for P500 million or 36.4 million ringgit as ransom. We have sent our team to discuss with the so-called reported middle person,” Zahid said.

“We hope this case can be settled as soon as possible,” he said but gave no further details.

Zahid added though that there has been no ransom demand for the Filipina hostage.

Gao, 29, and Filipina resort worker Marcelita Dayawan, 40, were taken from the Singamata Reef Resort in Malaysia’s Borneo island state of Sabah in a late-night raid by a group of gunmen.

The area is known for its natural attractions such as world-class dive sites but is also notorious for lawlessness and recurring kidnappings blamed on bandits from southern Philippines.

The Philippine military said last week the Abu Sayyaf, a small band of Islamic militants infamous for kidnapping for ransom, are the prime suspects.

It said the Philippines had responded by deploying soldiers to the remote Tawi-Tawi islands where the gunmen were believed to have taken the women in a speedboat.

Philippine authorities said they had no knowledge of the ransom negotiations.

Sabah police commissioner Datuk Hamza Taib said the gunmen who snatched the women appeared to have been familiar with the resort and its security operations.

Hamza said a kidnap-for-ransom group is behind the abduction and sells its hostages to other groups.

The Philippine military also suspected some criminal groups could be behind the abduction. The gunmen pass their hostages to the Abu Sayyaf to negotiate the ransom.

The abductors are believed affiliated with Abu Sayyaf “sub-commander” Murphy Ambang Ladjia, who was involved in kidnapping 21 people from another Sabah diving resort in 2000.

Twenty of those hostages – several of them foreign tourists – were released within five months, reportedly after hefty ransoms were paid. A Filipino captive was held until 2003.

Malaysia said at the weekend that Gao’s family in China had been contacted by telephone by her kidnappers.

The episode has further strained China-Malaysia relations already tested over the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370.

The plane vanished on March 8 with 239 people aboard – two-thirds of them Chinese – and Chinese relatives of passengers have harshly accused Malaysian authorities of ineptitude and a cover-up in the failure to find the jet. via The Philippine Star

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