Taiwanese tourist murder in East M'sia linked to Al-Qaeda

KUALA LUMPUR - The Abu Sayyaf terrorist group is believed to be behind the murder and kidnap on the picturesque Pom Pom Island, off the coast of Sabah.

"Based on their modus operandi, we believe that there is a link with the Abu Sayyaf group. The initial information we have is that they came in a small group of eight," said Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar.

He noted that the group, believed to have ties with the al-Qaeda, was notorious for ransom kidnapping, but said no demands had been made for the safe return of Taiwanese national Chang An Wei, 58.

The gunmen, who raided the island resort on Friday, a 45-minute boat ride from Semporna in Sabah, shot dead her husband Hsu Li Min, 57, after entering one of the five chalets through a toilet window at about 1am.

They were reported to have fled towards Pulau Mataking, close to southern Philippines. A massive sea and air search has been launched for them and the woman.

Khalid told reporters at Bukit Aman yesterday: "They are a band of opportunists who took advantage of the mobilisation of the Philippine armed forces up north due to the Haiyan disaster to commit terrorist acts."

Khalid did not rule out the involvement of locals in the planning of the raid, and said police were investigating if these individuals were Sabahans or Filipinos who slipped through the border.

As for the role of the Eastern Sabah Security Command, he said: "Esscom is still new. People have to understand that it is a very wide area of 1,400km to cover, and we can't be everywhere at once.

"These men planned a hit-and-run raid with the locals, which has made it hard for us to track them."

He said the Malaysian armed force had been mobilised to step up security over areas in Semporna, Sandakan and Tawau, as well as to comb the eastern Sabah waters for the gunmen and woman.

"I wish that she (Chang) is not in Philippine waters. We have contacted the Philippine border authorities to search on their side.

"We are also sweeping our side as well to ensure they are not using our territory to hide the victim."

The incident has sent shockwaves among Sabahans, especially after the Feb 12 Sulu intrusion in Lahad Datu.

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Next page: Gunmen island-hopping with abductee

Gunmen island-hopping with abductee

SEMPORNA - All indications are that the abducted Taiwanese tourist has been taken across to Philippine waters by Abu Sayyaf-linked gunmen who shot dead her husband in the exclusive Pom Pom Island resort off this east coast town.

Intelligence sources suspect that the gunmen were island-hopping in Tawi Tawi enroute to their Jolo home base, where the Abu Sayyaf group had held other hostages.

But police and army officials in the Philippines, whom The Star contacted, could not give details of the operation to locate 58-year-old Chang An Wei and her abductors, who were believed to have come to Pom Pom in two pump boats.

Her 57-year-old husband Hsu Li Min was shot in the chest and ribs in a chalet of the resort, owned by a Tawau timber tycoon at about 1am on Friday.

Police found four bullet casings in the chalet where the couple had booked into on Nov 12.

The couple were due to leave on Wednesday.

No ransom demand has been received so far for the release of Chang.

Security sources said that they were trying to figure out which faction of Abu Sayyaf carried out the raid on Pom Pom island while Intelligence officers believed that the gunmen could be foot soldiers of the group, always looking out for "human commodities" .

Security officials said the gunmen could have slipped into Sabah much earlier and had waited to stage the raid.

"We do not think that they came in the night before Friday and grabbed the hostage and left. They used the night when there was a full moon to kidnap and speed out of Sabah waters," said an official who declined to be named.

He said that Pom Pom Island was an ideal target as it was 18km or 25 minutes from the Philippine sea border.

Intelligence sources on both sides of the border have been hearing rumours of an Abu Sayyaf faction from Patikul in Jolo island planning to enter Sabah's east coast waters about three weeks ago.

No specific target was identified although they were believed to be looking to kidnap for ransom, the sources said.

The Taiwanese Foreign Ministry, meanwhile, said it had asked its representative in Manila to seek the cooperation of the the Philippine Government to locate Chang.

Next page: Victims' mothers still do not know of killing and abduction

Victims' mothers still do not know of killing and abduction

PETALING JAYA - The 80-year-old bedridden mother of slain Taiwanese tourist Hsu Li Min does not know about her son's tragic death yet.

Neither does the 92-year-old mother of his abducted wife, Chang An Wei.

Hsu's brother Li Ren said he did not know how to break the news to their mother.

Chang's brother Da Gong, said the family feared that she would not be able to handle the bad news.

According to a Taiwanese cable TV news report, Li Ren planned to fly to Kota Kinabalu, by Tuesday to make arrangements for Hsu's last rites. The body is at the Tawau Hospital mortuary.

Li Ren said he could not accept that the Malaysian authorities were insisting on carrying out a post-mortem on his brother, adding that he hoped the Taiwanese government would intervene and stop it.

He said he could also not understand how security at the tourist attraction was so lax.

"My brother did not have any run-ins with anyone or enemies. Why was he killed?" he asked as tears swelled up in his eyes.

Da Gong said Hsu and Chang had been married for more than 20 years but did not have any children.

He said they had sold off their apparel manufacturing plant in Shanghai, China, recently and had gone into the retail business.

He said they were semi-retired and had been travelling to many places lately, including the Maldives and Bali.

Da Gong said Chang had told him that they were going to visit Pom Pom island although she and her husband did not dive.

"She told me about the trip before leaving on Nov 12. They were supposed to have returned to Shanghai on Nov 22.

"I still cannot believe this has happened," he said, adding that he was praying for the safe return of his sister.

Da Gong said the Taiwanese government had made arrangements to fly him and Hsu's family members to Kota Kinabalu on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued an "orange" travel alert, its second highest level, for the eastern coast of Sabah.

It urged Taiwanese to avoid travelling to the area unless necessary.

Under the MOFA's four-colour-coded travel advisory system, "red' is the highest level, followed by "orange", "yellow' and "grey".

Next page: We were not welcomed at resort, say GOF men

We were not welcomed at resort, say GOF men

General Operations Force personnel guarding the exclusive Pom Pom island resort had a tough time in the days prior to the shooting of a Taiwanese tourist and the abduction of his wife on Friday.

The GOF men had been frequently patrolling the surrounding waters of Pom Pom island, a 45-minute boat ride from this east coast town, but felt unwelcomed at the resort.

A policy of the resort was that security personnel could only enter its premises if written permission was given by the operator, according to a GOF member.

"The operator and his staff do not like having security personnel, especially if they are armed, around the resort even though it is our duty to safeguard islands in this part of Sabah," a police officer said.

"The staff even had to call their manager to ask for permission to sell food and drinks to the security forces."

He said the operator and staff did not change their attitude even after top security officials, including Eastern Sabah Security Command director-general Datuk Mohammad Mentek and Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Hamza Taib, visited the resort.

A massive sea hunt has been launched for the Abu Sayyaf-linked gunmen who killed Taiwanese businessman Hsu Li Min, 57, and abducted his wife Chang An Wei, 58.

Hsu was shot in the chest and rib. Police found a 5.56mm and three 6.62 bullet casings in the chalet where the couple stayed.

Next page: An island resort that jealously guards its privacy

An island resort that jealously guards its privacy

There was a General Operations Force vessel docked at the wooden jetty when my colleague and I reached the clear waters of the idyllic Pom Pom island resort in a chartered boat.

Several armed GOF personnel stood guard at the jetty and some were walking in and out of the chalet where 57-year-old Taiwanese businessman Hsu Li Min was shot dead and his 58-year-old wife Chang An Wei abducted by gunmen, believed to be linked to Abu Sayyaf, early Friday.

As we walked on the wooden planks towards the main entrance of the resort, owned by a Tawau timber tycoon, we saw tourists snorkelling in the waters and lazing about on the beach.

They looked relaxed and happy despite the presence of the armed security personnel. It was as if they were oblivious to the murder and abduction.

However, a man and woman became agitated when they saw my colleague taking pictures of the scenery. They warned us against publishing their pictures and threatened action.

We continued moving towards the entrance of the chalets, which cost RM650 per person a night, and there was a signboard stating: "Private property, no trespassing".

We went ahead as we wanted to get a feel of the place in the aftermath of the killing and abduction.

We asked a Caucasian man talking to guests in the main lobby if we could come in.

He said "yes" and then, asked: "Are you guests?"

When we said "no", he said: "I'm sorry this is private property and you are not allowed here. You have to make a booking through our Kota Kinabalu office before you can enter."

As we headed back to the jetty, we passed the five water chalets on stilts where there was a police team.

We went up to the police personnel to gather more information about the incident and took photographs of the chalet where Hsu was shot dead and Chang was abducted.

Policemen were seen carrying luggage from the chalet.

There were also several foreigners, believed to be Taiwanese officials. They moved away when we tried to approach them.

A police officer told us that the victims' belongings were left untouched by the gunmen, dismissing rumours that the motive behind the attacks was robbery.

The victims' cameras and handphones were still inside the bags.

The police personnel whom we spoke to said they were puzzled as to why the man was killed while the woman was snatched away.

Some speculated that someone had helped the gunmen gain entry into the area, as it was quite impossible to go unnoticed.

They also expressed disappointment over the lack of cooperation given by the resort owner and staff, saying they faced difficulties in getting statements from witnesses.

We left the island with the impression that it was a tough job for the security forces to guard the resort, which seemed to value its privacy above everything else.

Contractor tells of receiving distress call from woman

A renovation contractor was surprised when he received a distress call from a woman repeatedly screaming for help and crying that she was going to be killed.

"It was a blocked number and I could not identify the caller. I kept asking her to tell me her name and location, but she just kept crying and screaming for help in Mandarin.

"She also said that she was going to be killed," said Geoffrey Tay.

Tay said that he was puzzled by the call that he received at about 11.42am on Friday while he was in Kota Kinabalu town.

"I immediately called my daughter to check whether she was all right and then when I got back home I saw the Star Online news about a Taiwanese woman being kidnapped off Semporna.

"I felt it might have been the woman who might have dialled random numbers and got mine. I informed the Kota Kinabalu police station about the call at about 1.45pm but the policemen on duty said they could not do much," he said.

Tay said that he left the matter as it was and told the police that they could get in touch with him if they needed more details.

Next page: Guests at luxurious resort oblivious to shooting

Guests at luxurious resort oblivious to shooting

There was a hive of police activities at the Pom-Pom Island Resort chalet where a Taiwanese tourist was shot dead and his wife abducted by Filipino gunmen.

Eastern Sabah Security Command director general Datuk Mohammad Mentek spent about an hour at the scene early Saturday.

Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Hamza Taib had also visited the island on Friday, hours after the 1am shooting and kidnapping incident that shocked Sabahans.

When journalists arrived at the resort, they were told that the resort was a private property owned by a timber tycoon from Tawau and no one who was not a guest was allowed to enter.

The resort guests were seen snorkelling and lazing on the shoreline, oblivious to Friday's shooting although the presence of police and general operations force personnel have thrown a tight cordon around the resort.

One of the policies adopted at the resort was that 'security personnel could only enter the resort if a written permission was given by the operator', according to a General Operation personnel familiar with the rooms and the resort.

On Friday, the serenity of the Pom Pom Island Resort, a 45-minute boat ride from Semporna, Sabah, however, was shattered by gunshots.

Unidentified armed men, who raided three of the five water villas at about 1am, killed Hsu Li Min, 57, and abducted his wife Chang An Wei, 58.

A massive sea and air search has been launched to locate the woman and the gunmen.

Hsu and Chang had checked into the resort Tuesday and were scheduled to leave on Wednesday.

The resort, located a kilometre away from a General Operations Force (GOF) base, is about a 30-minute boat ride away from international waters bordering Tawi Tawi islands off the Philippines.

Next page: Business as usual at Pom Pom resort

Business as usual at Pom Pom resort

It is business as usual for the high-end Pom Pom Island Resort where a Taiwanese tourist was shot dead and his wife kidnapped by Filipino gunmen.

On Saturday morning, foreign tourists including Taiwanese were seen arriving at this east coast town after landing at Tawau airport.

More than a dozen were seen boarding the resort's tour coach and appeared unaware of the shooting and kidnapping incident at about 1am on Friday.

However, tour agents associated with the resort shrugged off the gunmen's raid on the island.

"There are murders happening everyday in Kuala Lumpur. Do people stop going there?," he said.

When contacted a resort tour agent said they had two garden villa rooms available for the night at RM650 per person.

On Friday, the serenity of the Pom Pom Island Resort, a 45-minute boat ride from Semporna, Sabah, however, was shattered by gunshots.

Unidentified armed men, who raided three of the five water villas at about 1am, killed Hsu Li Min, 57, and abducted his wife Chang An Wei, 58.

A massive sea and air search has been launched to locate the woman and the gunmen.

Hsu and Chang had checked into the resort Tuesday and were scheduled to leave on Wednesday.

The resort, located a kilometre away from a General Operations Force (GOF) base, is about a 30-minute boat ride away from international waters bordering Tawi Tawi islands off the Philippines.

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