Abducted women safe, say police but cops mum on ransom demands

Gao Huayuan.

KOTA KINABALU - Two wo­men taken from Singa­mata Reef Resort a week ago are safe as gunmen have made contact more than once, but police are mum on ransom demands.

"This is all I can say, we've got calls and they are safe," said Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Hamza Taib.

He declined to say to whom and when the calls were made by the purported kidnappers, except that Chinese tourist Gao Huayun, 29, and Filipino resort worker Marcy Daya­­­­wan, 40, were alive.

They are held in an undisclosed location on an island in southern Philippines.

He also refused to say whether a demand for ransom had been made by the Abu Sayyaf-linked gunmen who raided the resort on April 2, taking the two as hostages.

A first call was made last Friday, where families of the hostages were informed that they were "safe" with the abductors.

No ransom demand was made during that call.

Comm Hamza told reporters police had classified the case as kidnap for ransom under Section 3(1) Kidnapping Act, after initially classifying it under Section 365 of the Penal Code for kidnap or abduction to wrongfully confine people.

He said police were also verifying if Daya­wan was really a hostage or a divergent.

"Her (Dayawan) background is still vague and we are checking whether she is in any way linked to this case," he said.

Comm Hamza said 22 foreigners (15 men and seven women), including two close relatives of Dayawan, had been detained to facili­tiate investigations into the abduction, which police believed had inside help.

Police are focusing on seven women and a man among the detainees to ascertain if they had any complicity with the gunmen.

"Any information we give out now will pose a risk to the hostages," he said.

Philippine authorities who have identified the leader of the gunmen as Murphy Ambang Ladja aka Haji Gulam, had so far stated that they have no sightings or contact with the gunmen or their hostages.

It is believed the gunmen are in the Sulu province area and may have slipped into the Abu Sayyaf stronghold of Jolo after fleeing from various islands in the southern Philippines.

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