SEMPORNA, EAST MALAYSIA - All indications are that the abducted Taiwanese tourist has been taken across to Philippine waters by Abu Sayyaf-linked gunmen who shot dead her husband in the exclusive Pom Pom Island resort off this east coast town.
Intelligence sources suspect that the gunmen were island-hopping in Tawi Tawi enroute to their Jolo home base, where the Abu Sayyaf group had held other hostages.
But police and army officials in the Philippines, whom The Star contacted, could not give details of the operation to locate 58-year-old Chang An Wei and her abductors, who were believed to have come to Pom Pom in two pump boats.
Her 57-year-old husband Hsu Li Min was shot in the chest and ribs in a chalet of the resort, owned by a Tawau timber tycoon at about 1am on Friday.
Police found four bullet casings in the chalet where the couple had booked into on Nov 12.
The couple were due to leave on Wednesday.
No ransom demand has been received so far for the release of Chang.
Security sources said that they were trying to figure out which faction of Abu Sayyaf carried out the raid on Pom Pom island while Intelligence officers believed that the gunmen could be foot soldiers of the group, always looking out for "human commodities" .
Security officials said the gunmen could have slipped into Sabah much earlier and had waited to stage the raid.
"We do not think that they came in the night before Friday and grabbed the hostage and left. They used the night when there was a full moon to kidnap and speed out of Sabah waters," said an official who declined to be named.
He said that Pom Pom Island was an ideal target as it was 18km or 25 minutes from the Philippine sea border.
Intelligence sources on both sides of the border have been hearing rumours of an Abu Sayyaf faction from Patikul in Jolo island planning to enter Sabah's east coast waters about three weeks ago.
No specific target was identified although they were believed to be looking to kidnap for ransom, the sources said.
The Taiwanese Foreign Ministry, meanwhile, said it had asked its representative in Manila to seek the cooperation of the the Philippine Government to locate Chang.