Semporna kidnap: Hopes rise after ransom call made

Semporna kidnap: Hopes rise after ransom call made
Sombre atmosphere: Li Ren (with yellow vest) and other family members at the Tawau Hospital mortuary.

SEMPORNA - A reported telephone call for ransom has raised hopes that 58 year-old Taiwanese tourist Chang An Wei is alive - a week after she was abducted by Filipino gunmen who shot dead her husband at Pom Pom Island Resort.

Malaysian police declined to confirm that the ransom demand was made but negotiators who have handled past kidnappings said that the initial amount asked for usually in American dollars would be very high.

"If the call is genuine, it could be any amount," said a negotiator who has done deals in southern Philippines to secure the release of victims previously kidnapped from Sabah.

He cautioned that anyone could make a telephone call and it has to be ascertained if middlemen who made the ransom call really represented the gunmen holding Chang by producing a photograph of her and allowing her to talk with her family members.

However, he explained that if a genuine call was made to any family member, it would reflect that the captive was still alive as she would have provided telephone numbers for the abductors to contact.

The negotiator said the gunmen would usually find a safe jungle hideout in Tawi-Tawi before moving her to neighbouring Jolo island in southern Philippines before negotiating any ransom.

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