MANILA (Mabuhay) – The Armed Forces of the Philippines on Friday said the Abu Sayyaf Group may be behind the abduction of a Filipina worker and a Chinese tourist at the Singamata Resort near Semporna in Sabah, at around 10:30 pm. Wednesday.
AFP spokesman Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala said the victims were kidnapped by seven armed men believed to be members of an Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) unit in Tawi-Tawi.
One of the members of the unit is Murphy Ambang Ladia (also known as Haji Gulam), a former member of the Moro National Liberation Front who joined the bandit group operating in Tawi-Tawi, he added.
Zagala also said: “Subject [Gulam] later joined the ASG operating in Tawi-Tawi under ASG Binang Sahirol. Initial available information obtained further states that said abductors proceeded to the vicinity of Simunol Munipality in Tawi-Tawi, eluding Malaysian authorities conducting pursuit operations.”
Zagala said the bandits immediately boarded a white speedboat and proceeded towards the Philippine Sea.
Abducted Pinay identified
Meanwhile, the Department of Foreign Affairs identified the abducted Pinay as Marcelita Dayawan, 40, a staff worker of the resort.
“Embassy officials are in touch with Ms. Dayawan’s relatives and are extending consular assistance. Philippine and Malaysian authorities are closely and actively working together towards the speedy resolution of the case,” the DFA said in a statement.
Earlier, Malaysia’s The Star Online quoted Brig. Gen. Martin Pinto, head of the military’s Sulu task force, as saying they are gathering intelligence information on the gunmen’s whereabouts.
“We have mobili(z)ed our naval assets in the Sulu and Tawi-Tawi areas and all bases along coastal areas for possible entry,” he said.
However, he said they have yet to confirm reports the group might have slipped into the Philippines.
The Star Online said that as of Friday morning, neither the Philippine nor Malaysian side had made any sighting of the gunmen or the hostages.
It added Malaysia continued sea, air and ground searches in various locations within the east coast of Semporna waters, while police checked the background of some resort workers.
Capt. Ryan Lacuesta, Joint Task Force Sulu spokesman, said units from the military’s 2nd Marine Brigade have been monitoring for possible entry of suspects in the Sulu province.
“As of [Thursday]… wala pang sightings dito sa area ng Sulu,” he said.
On April 23, 2000, Abu Sayyaf bandits took 21 hostages, including 10 tourists from Europe and the Middle East at the world-renowned diving resort of Sipadan Island near Semporna.
The hostages were brought to Sulu using high-powered speedboats. Most of the hostages were released in the following months; the last hostage, Roland Ulla (Filipino), was able to escape on June 6, 2003. (MNS)