Sabah Police Commissioner: There's proof Chinese tourist still alive

Cowering in fear: Tourists taking cover during the kidnapping incident at the Singamata Adventures and Reef Resort by suspected Abu Sayyaf rebels off the Semporna coast in Sabah.

KOTA KINABALU - Intermediaries working for the release of a Shanghainese tourist kidnapped from a dive resort off Semporna have been given proof that the woman is still alive.

Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Hamza Taib confirmed that they have received a photo of Gao Huayun, 29, taken in the southern Philippines.

But he declined to say when the photo was taken or when it was sent by the kidnappers.

Gao and Filipina resort worker Marcy Dayawan, 40, were snatched by seven gunmen, believed to have links with the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group, from the Singamata Reef Resort on April 2.

The kidnappers have demanded a payment of 500 million pesos (S$14 million) for the release of Gao, while there has been no ransom demand for Dayawan.

Philippine security forces have stepped up operations in the Sulu province, where they believe the kidnappers have gone to ground, hoping to rescue the victims.

One suspected Abu Sayyaf gunman has been killed by security forces in a moutainous village at Patikul where unconfirmed reports indicated the hostages had been taken to.

The kidnappers are believed to be led by former Moro National Liberation Front sub-commander Murphy Ambang Ladjia aka Haji Gulam.

Philippine security forces have not sighted the kidnappers or hostages yet.

Home Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi has disclosed that Malaysian police and their Philippines counterparts were working to make direct contact with the kidnappers.