PETALING JAYA, Malaysia - The notorious Abu Sayyaf group believed to be responsible for the abduction of a Chinese and Philippine national in Sabah used to demand up to US$3.5mil (S$4.4 mil) for the release of non-Filipino citizens, said a security analyst.
Prof Dr Aruna Gopinath who specialises in maritime security said the separatist group based at Basilan in the southern Philippines would typically charge a lower rate of three million pesos (S$84,300) for the release of Filipino citizens.
"The Abu Sayyaf are only interested in money and a ransom will have to be paid before they release their hostages," she said.
Aruna said a Philippine reporter she knew was kidnapped by the group in 2011 and was held captive for 90 days.
"She met the Abu Sayyaf leaders in Basilan for an interview but was instead kidnapped by them, kept under guard in a house and given only water and two bananas three times a day."
Aruna said a Philippine congressman eventually agreed to pay the ransom of three million pesos after which her friend was let go.
Another Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) breakaway group that specialises in kidnapping is the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters which Malaysian authorities must be alert for, said Aruna.
In a related development, the Associated Press quoted a Philippine intelligence official yesterday as confirming that the kidnapping was the work of the Abu Sayyaf group.
He said Abu Sayyaf leaders were angry because they were not brought into the peace deal between the Philippine government and MILF.
The most recent in a long list of abductions blamed on the Abu Sayyaf prior to the incident in Sabah on Wednesday was the reported kidnapping of an elementary school principal in Basilan on Monday.