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By Sandra Sokial

KOTA KINABALU, April 3:

A technician related his “near death” experience last night when armed men stormed into one of the recreation rooms at the Singamata Reef Resort here.

He said the intruders ordered him to keep quiet, but realising the danger he was in, the middle-aged man jumped into the sea to save himself.

The man heard shouts from the resort and later found out that his colleague, 40-year-old Marcy Dayawan, or Mimie, and a China-national guest, Gao Hua Yuan, 29, were abducted from the resort, located 2.2 nautical miles (4km) off Semporna, 600km from here.

Another witness, a cook, said she was sleeping at the far end of the staff quarters of the resort when she was awakened by noises coming from her room.

But it was just too dark and she said all she could make out were sounds of people fighting before she heard shouts for help as a boat sped off from the resort.

She said she didn’t know what had happened until the resort management ordered everyone out of their rooms. She saw police arriving minutes later.

A local in Semporna said that the police presence was immediately felt, with helicopters seen flying around the resort and also to the mainland since noon.

“I saw police coming in, but the situation at the mainland seemed calm. A lot of foreign tourists seem to be not bothered by the incident,” said Riduan Bagudad, 46.

The kidnapping occurred just three months after Taiwanese tourist Chang An Wei, 58, was abducted from the Pom Pom Island Resort and Spa.

In the Nov 15 incident, gunmen stormed into the water villa and shot dead Chang’s male companion, Lee Min Hsu, 57.

Chang was rescued 36 days later on the southern Philippine island of Jolo.

Meanwhile, the China News online portal reported that Filipino rebels were behind the abduction. It reported that a group, consisting of six armed militants, stormed the hotel that had some 60 Chinese tourists, including children and the elderly, and immediately instilled “fear” among everyone. 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.China News also reported that the armed men later took the two hostages and sped off on a speedboat after shouting that they were a group of armed rebels from the Philippines. Al Jazeera reported that an Philippine intelligence official said the attackers were believed to be from the Abu Sayyaf, a Filipino rebel group. The group had been involved in similar kidnappings for ransom before. It said the Philippine military indicated that the way the kidnapping was conducted was similar to Abu Sayyaf’s previous kidnappings.

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