LAHAD DATU - Police have called off an intensive search for kidnapped farm manager Yang Zai Lin as they believe he has been taken into a notorious Abu Sayyaf stronghold at Jolo Island in southern Philippines.
Philippines officials are indicating that the group that abducted him could have entered Jolo Island late on Tuesday as an intensive search along the Tawi Tawi chain of islands straddling Sabah sea borders failed to make any sighting of the abductors or their speedboat.
Tawi Tawi police chief Col Joey Salido said they called off the air and sea hunt for the suspects after they received reports that the gunmen had entered the Sulu province.
Upon being informed by Malaysian authorities on Tuesday morning, the navy, coastguards and police launched a hunt for the gunmen but no sightings were made.
"I was informed by the Naval Task Force 62 commander that the gunmen had entered the Sulu area so we called off the operations," said Col Salido, explaining that helicopters were sent towards the border islands of Sibutu and Panglima Sagula to conduct searches.
The Sulu officials said they had yet to receive information on the whereabouts of the gunmen and Yang.
Five gunmen sneaked into the Wonderful Terrace Sdn Fish Farm, owned by the Hong Kong-based businessman in a 40HP speedboat before grabbing Yang.
They let off the farm's security guard with a slap at about 2.45am on Tuesday.
They gunmen switched to a higher-powered speedboat before a brief firefight with pursuing Malaysian security forces. However, they managed to slip into Sibutu before escaping at about 6.20am.
The Tawi Tawi-based gangs with spotters among the coastal villagers usually hand over abducted victims to splinter Abu Sayyaf groups.
Meanwhile, reports quoting Mindanao State University professor Octavio Dinampo, a social worker, said an extremist Abu Sayyaf group under Redullan Sahiron was holding tourist Gao Huayun, 29, and resort worker Marcy Dayawan, 40, who were snatched by gunmen from the Singamata Reef Resort in Semporna on April 2.
He claimed the two were in Bud Taran in Talipao village in Jolo together with Germans Dr Stefan Viktor Okonek, 72, and Henrite Dielen, 42, abducted from their yacht in waters around the southern Philippines island of Palawan close to Sabah's northern Kudat district.