KOTA KINABALU - Ongoing military operations in the southern Philippine island of Jolo are making life very difficult for the remaining Malaysian hostage Bernard Then Ted Fen.
Jolo-based anti-kidnapping activist Prof Octavio Dinampo said Abu Sayyaf gunmen guarding the 39-year-old hostage were moving him around constantly among the mountainous jungle hideouts on the island.
"They are trying to avoid the military and the order to the gunmen from their leaders is to avoid any engagement with the soldiers," he said.
However, the worry was that accidents might happen, he said, adding that from what he had heard Then was safe.
"He is tired and weak from the constant moving around in the mountains," Dinampo added.
He said Then was supposed to have been released together with restauranteur Thien Nyuk Fun, 50, on Sunday.
However, the negotiations for their release hit a snag when an Abu Sayyaf commander, Abu Hambri, suddenly insisted on additional conditions.
Abu is said to be an uncle of Abu Sayyaf sub-commander Idang Susukan, who had been holding Thien and Then captive since their abduction from the Ocean King seafood restaurant in Sandakan on May 14.
Dinampo said negotiators were still trying to secure Then's release based on the original terms.
Thien returned home to Sandakan on Monday following a six-hour boat ride from Jolo.
Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Jalaluddin Abdul Rahman said they were now focusing their efforts on securing Then's release.