Semporna kidnap: Fears grow for victim in harsh environment

Chang’s brother, Da Gong, talking to reporters in Taipei.

SEMPORNA - Fear for Taiwanese tourist Chang An Wei's life is growing as security officials worry whether the 58-year-old will be able to endure the harsh conditions of being held a hostage. Gunmen abducted her from Pom Pom Island Resort early on Friday.

There has been no clear indication thus far as to where she is being held by the Abu Sayyaf-linked gunmen from intelligence sources.

However, it is widely suspected that she could have been taken to the jungle hideouts in Tawi Tawi Island where previous hostages have recalled gruelling experiences.

According to an intelligence source, several factors could work against Chang's survival as a captive of an armed group on the run.

"Her health condition could deteriorate by the hour in the jungle where the only food available could be tapioca and salted fish," said a source involved in dealing with the Sipadan and Pandanan kidnappings in 2000.

He said language could also be another problem, as her captors most likely would not understand Mandarin.

"Seeing her husband shot dead would have already traumatised her," he said. "What more her age and the depression of being a captive in a hostile environment."

The source said many younger hostages taken from Sabah previously did not survive at the hands of Abu Sayyaf-linked gunmen.

However, the source said the abductors would want Chang alive as she was a "precious commodity" while they sought ransom.

There has been speculation that a kidnap-for-ransom group was holding Chang before transferring her to the Abu Sayyaf stronghold of Jolo Island in southern Philippines.

Philippine National Police's Sulu Provincial Director Supt Abraham Orbita told The Star that they were keeping a lookout for Chang and the gunmen.

"There are numerous small islands from Tawi Tawi to Jolo," he said. "They are likely to be hiding there."

Orbita said the gunmen were expected to take their time to get to their intended destination to evade detection.