KUALA LUMPUR, April 3:
Malaysia has contacted Philippine authorities to locate a Chinese tourist and a Filipino resort worker abducted by a group of men in Sabah last night, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said in Perth today.
According toBernama, he said the abduction was regarded seriously and he had ordered all enforcement agencies to look into the case immediately.
“Our priority is to ensure the safety of the hostages,” he told Malaysian journalists shortly after a joint press conference with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott on the search for a missing Malaysian airliner in the southern Indian Ocean.
Najib did not rule out the probability that some quarters wanted to tarnish the relations between Malaysia and China as the abduction coincided with the missing Malaysia Airlines (MAS) flight MH370.
The kidnapping of two women at Singamata Reef Resort, Semporna, last night, is believed to be by Filipino rebels.
According toChina Newsonline portal, a group of six armed militants stormed the hotel that had some 60 Chinese tourists, including children and the elderly.
This immediately instilled “fear” among everyone. It was reported that everyone was told to lie on the ground and the situation was “very tense”.
There were some claims that bullets were heard whizzing past as everyone kept their heads low to the ground.
It was claimed that the armed men later took the two hostages and sped off on a speedboat after shouting that they were armed rebels from the Philippines.
The two hostages were a female Chinese tourist from Shanghai, Gao Huayun, 29, and a 40-year-old Filipino receptionist.
Some 50 members of the police and military arrived within minutes and gathered all the remaining guests and staff in the resort’s main hall.
By this morning, all 61 guests — 59 of them from mainland China — had decided to leave the resort. Ten new holidaymakers, who arrived today, however, were staying.
Photos shared online by eyewitnesses showed chaos and confusion as tourists crouched on the floor of a dining room behind overturned tables.
Other photos showed policemen in uniforms with rifles and bulletproof vests securing the resort after the raid.
It was the latest in a series of raids on hotels in Sabah. Many have been attributed to insurgent groups from the Sulu archipelago in the Philippines.
A Taiwanese tourist was shot dead after being kidnapped in Semporna, the district where yesterday’s raid occurred, in November last year.
His wife was later rescued by Philippine security forces from the southern Philippine island province of Sulu.
The Chinese consulate in Kuching issued a warning on its website today, urging Chinese tourists to take precautions when travelling in the area.
Travellers with questions or requests for help were encouraged to contact the consulate at 006012-8861953.
It was reported that a Philippine intelligence official said the attackers were believed to be from the Abu Sayyaf Filipino rebel group. The group had been involved in similar kidnappings for ransom before.
According toAl Jazeera, the Philippine military indicated the way the armed men operated was similar to Abu Sayyaf’s previous kidnappings.