Kidnapped Taiwanese traveller saved in Philippines

TAIPEI, Taiwan - A Taiwanese tourist has reportedly been rescued from kidnappers who abducted her and killed her husband on a small Malaysian island last month, Taiwanese police said yesterday.

Chang An-wei (張安薇) was sent to a Filipino hospital to undergo a medical checkup after being rescued, said Lin Teh-hua (林德華), commissioner of Taiwan's Criminal Investigation Bureau (CIB).

Taiwan's Central News Agency (CNA) cited "reliable" sources from the Filipino military who confirmed that Chang, 58, was freed from her armed kidnappers in Maimbung, a small town on the southern Filipino island of Sulu, after 35 days in captivity.

Chang received a medical checkup at a Filipino medical facility, CNA said, adding that the Southeast Asian country's police also confirmed the news.

CNA did not release further details about the rescue mission or her health before press time.

Chang was vacationing with her husband, Hsu Li-min (許立民), 57, on Pom Pom Island, located off Sabah in the Malaysian region of Borneo, in the early hours of Nov. 15 when an unknown number of gunmen raided their beach resort hotel room. They shot the husband dead and kidnapped her. It is believed that she was then transported to the Philippines.

Legislator Alex Tsai (蔡正元) of the ruling Kuomintang, who had been helping the family after the kidnapping, told reporters that he received confirmation about the rescue at about 5 p.m. yesterday.

Tsai, who posted a message on his Facebook page breaking the news, said it is hoped that Chang can return to Taiwan before Christmas.

Officials with Taiwan's representative office in Malaysia also disclosed that the Malaysian government confirmed the news.

The officials were cited as saying that Taiwan's foreign ministry will discuss with the Filipino and Malaysian governments regarding further arrangements for her.

The officials also extended their gratitude to Malaysia and the Philippines for their help in ending the hostage's ordeal.

The Filipino police also indicated that the hostage's brother Chang Ta-kong recently went to Manila for the second time to discuss the rescue mission.

The brother had previously travelled to Manila to try and negotiate a ransom with the captors.

But whether or not a negotiation took place has not yet been confirmed. It is also still unknown if the kidnappers received any ransom money.

There were also unconfirmed reports claiming that the hostage was released by the captors, rather than rescued by military troops.

Reports from Singapore said Chang is currently staying at Merin Hospital in Sulu, Philippines, and is expected to be moved to Zamboanga city within three days.