KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP)
A Chinese tourist and a Filipino worker have been rescued nearly two months after they were abducted from a resort off Borneo island, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said Friday.
Najib credited their release to cooperation between Malaysian and Philippine security forces, and said no ransom was paid.
Malaysian officials earlier said the kidnappers had demanded a ransom of 500 million pesos ($11.4 million) for the Chinese hostage.
Gunmen, believed to be Philippine Abu Sayyaf militants, kidnapped the 28-year-old Shanghai woman and the 40-year-old Filipino woman from the Singamata Reef Resort in the eastern Malaysian state of Sabah on April 2. They were believed to have been taken to the southern Philippines.
“No ransom paid to secure their release. Success due to cooperation of Malaysia and Philippines security forces. I thank all involved,” Najib tweeted. He said authorities were working to return the Chinese woman to her home country as soon as possible.
Najib didn’t give further details and officials couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.
Two Philippine security officials who have been monitoring kidnappings in the south confirmed the two women had been released by Abu Sayyaf militants in Parang township in the southern Philippine province of Sulu after a series of negotiations. The two were served lunch by local police and then escorted out of Sulu on board a speedboat back to Sabah, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.
Philippine military and police believe an Abu Sayyaf faction led by commander Alhabsi Misaya was involved in the kidnapping of the women, who were held in a jungle camp in Sulu’s Indanan township, near Parang. Misaya’s group has been blamed for other kidnappings in the poor, predominantly Muslim province.
There has been a spate of kidnappings in recent months off Sabah, a popular tourist destination and dive spot that is just a short boat ride from the southern Philippines.
Last month, a Chinese fish farm manager in Sabah was kidnapped and was also believed to have been taken to the southern Philippines.
In November, suspected Abu Sayyaf militants killed a Taiwanese tourist and kidnapped his wife from another Sabah resort. The woman was released a month later in the southern Philippines. Authorities didn’t say whether a ransom was paid.
The Sabah government announced measures last month to tighten security, including a curfew and travel restrictions in high-risk areas.
The Abu Sayyaf had links to international terrorist networks, including al-Qaida, but a U.S.-backed Philippine military crackdown has weakened it considerably in recent years. The group has an estimated 300 fighters and now focuses on ransom kidnappings more than global jihad.
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