China denies ransom demand for tourist

China denies ransom demand for tourist
File photo of hotel guests crouching on the floor at the Singamata Reef Resort after seven gunmen in uniforms with rifles and bulletproof vests stormed the resort on April 2. A Chinese and a Filipina were kidnapped by the gunmen.

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysian official says kidappers demand 70 million yuan (S$14 million) for a Chinese woman abducted last week from a resort in Sabah state, but Chinese consulate says it has received no such request.

Beijing Times quoted the Chinese consulate in Kuching of east Malaysia that they have not received any ransom request from the kidnappers, following Malaysia's report Thursday that Gunmen have demanded 500 million pesos (S$14million) for the release of the Chinese tourist.

The gunmen, believed to be Abu Sayyaf militants, kidnapped a 28-year-old Chinese woman from Shanghai and a 40-year-old Filipino hotel worker from the Singamata Reef Resort in the eastern Malaysian state of Sabah on April 2.

Philippine authorities believe the women were taken to the island township of Simunul in Tawi-Tawi, the Philippines' southernmost province. Sabah, a popular tourist destination, is just a short boat ride from the southern Philippines, home to Muslim militants and known kidnap gangs.

The kidnapper, or kidnappers for that matter, have asked for about 500 million pesos ... worth of ransom" for the Chinese tourist, Malaysian Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamid was quoted as saying by Malaysia newspaper China Press.

"We have sent our team, the police and the negotiators ... to negotiate about the reduction of the ransom," he said. No ransom was asked for the Filipino woman, according to Ahmad Zahid.

Zahid was not able to be reached for further comment. An aide confirmed Zahid's comments and said investigations were ongoing.

The kidnappers have made telephone contact with the family of Gao Huayun, the Chinese kidnap victim, Malaysian local newspaper New Straits Times quoted Eastern Sabah Security Command Director-General Mohammad Mentek as saying on Sunday. Mentek added that the kidnappers did not ask for a ransom at that time.

In carrying out the kidnappings, seven men armed with rifles, four of them masked, arrived at the resort on a speedboat and fled with the two women, according to Malaysian police.

The Abu Sayyaf, a militant Muslim group, has carried out seaborne kidnappings for ransom in the region before. In 2000, Abu Sayyaf gunmen snatched 21 European tourists and Malaysian and Filipino workers from Malaysia's Sipadan diving resort and brought them to the southern Philippines, where they eventually were released in exchange for large ransom payments.

In November, suspected Abu Sayyaf militants killed a Taiwan tourist and kidnapped his wife from another Sabah resort. The woman was released a month later in the southern Philippines.

 

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