KOTA KINABALU - An imminent release might be on the cards for at least one of two Malaysians being held by the militant Abu Sayyaf group at Jolo island in southern Philippines as middlemen step up the tempo of negotiations.
Indications from the ground are that marine police Kons Zakiah Aleip has been moved from a jungle hideout to a farm under the control of the notorious Al Habsi group in the Indanan municipality.
Another Malaysian, fish farm manager Chan Sai Chuin, 32, is being held separately by another group led by Khatib Hajan Sawadjan and is constantly on the move between Patikul and Indanan municipalities.
Jolo-based anti-kidnapping activist Octavio Dinampo said negotiators had been stepping up their efforts in securing Kons Zakiah's release since nearly two weeks ago.
"I was told that certain negotiators are on their way to help secure the release of the policeman very soon," said Dinampo, a Mindanao State University academician.
Kons Zakiah was abducted after gunmen attacked a Marine Police unit in Pulau Mabul on July 12 that also resulted in the killing of Kpl Ab Rajah Jamuan, 32.
It was one of a series of security incidents in Sabah's east coast that saw Taiwanese Chang An Wei, 58, abducted and her husband Li Min Hsu, 57, killed at the Pom Pom island resort on Nov 15 last year.
On April 2, China tourist Gao Huayun, 29, and Filipino hotel worker Marcy Dayawan, 40, were taken from the Singamata Reef Resort near Semporna.
On May 6, China national Yang Zailin, 34, was abducted from the fish farm he was managing in Pulau Baik, Lahad Datu.
On June 16, gunmen once again raided a fish farm in Kampung Sapang, Kunak, and abducted Chan.
In Kuala Lumpur, in an event in Bukit Aman, Home Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said: "Chan's wife already met me in Parliament asking for assistance to raise the ransom money but the Government's policy is we do not negotiate with terrorists.
"However, we are doing everything we possibly can to secure the safe release of both Malaysians."