Malaysian security officials on Friday said that the Shanghai tourist and Philippine resort worker who were kidnapped by gunmen during a hotel raid in Sabah on Wednesday are now being held by their captors in the southern Philippines, and are believed to be unharmed.
Twenty-nine year old Gao Huayun from Shanghai had just arrived at the Singamata Reef Resort in Malaysia’s Sabah state when five or six gunmen burst into the hotel, taking Gao and 40-year-old Marcy on a boat with them, according to hotel staff.
The raid follows similar incidents in recent past, including the November 2013 abduction of a tourist on Pom Pom Island off Sabah’s east coast. The 58-year-old woman was kidnapped by men wearing ski masks and taken to the Philippines before being released in December. Her husband was shot dead in the ordeal.
Mohammad Mentek, director-general of Eastern Sabah Security Command, said that one of the perpetrators of Wednesday’s events was believed to have been involved in last year’s Pom Pom case, and that the rest were involved in a 2000 kidnapping of tourists at the Malaysian resort of Sipadan, according to the Wall Street Journal.
“This group is believed to be active and aggressive in the southern Philippines,” he said, without identifying the name of the group.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said that the attack in Sabah may have been an attempt to further sour ties between Malaysia and China following the disappearance of MH370.
Mainland travel agencies have already reported a significant drop in the number of Chinese visitors to Malaysia as many Chinese have called for a tourism boycott.