Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said that the raid at a resort in Sabah on Wednesday, in which unidentified gunmen kidnapped a Shanghai tourist and a hotel employee, may have been an attempt to further strain ties between Malaysia and China following the disappearance of MH370.
According to witnesses, gunmen stormed through the Singamata Reef Resort around 10:30 p.m. on Wednesday night and left by boat within minutes, taking a Shanghai tourist and a Filipino hotel employee with them.
Twenty-nine year old Gao Huayun had just arrived at the resort from Shanghai and had been traveling with a friend who left the resort early, according to the hotel manager.
At least five or six gunmen raided the hotel, reportedly taking Gao and 40-year-old Marcy Dayawan on a boat to an unknown location.
The attack is the latest in a series of raids on hotels in Malaysia’s Sabah state, and this one comes amid already strained relations between Malaysia and China over the Southeast nation’s handling of the MH370 search.
Family members of passengers onboard the Malaysia Airlines flight, which went missing on March 8 and was declared to have “ended” in the southern Indian Ocean, have staged protests in response to Malaysia’s handling of the search, accusing the government of being dishonest about the operation.
Mainland travel agencies have already reported a significant drop in the number of Chinese visitors to Malaysia as some Chinese residents have called for a tourism boycott.
Chinese officials have urged Sabah’s police chief to carry out a speedy rescue and the Philippines said its maritime police unit and anti-kidnapping officers were working with Malaysia to assist in the search.
“Our priority is to ensure the safety of the hostages,” Najib said in a statement after meeting with his Austrlian counterpart Tony Abbot in Perth.
[Images via Xinhua // SCMP]