A Chinese tourist and a Filipino hotel worker were abducted by six armed men from a Malaysian diving resort, officials from Malaysia and the Philippines said Thursday, adding that the attackers, suspected to be Filipino militants, fled on the speed boat they had arrived in.
The two women, identified as Gao Hua Yun, a 29-year-old tourist from Shanghai, and Marcy Dayawan, a 40-year old resort worker, were abducted Wednesday night from the Singamata Reef Resort, which is located off the coastal town of Semporna in Malaysia's eastern state of Sabah, a popular tourist destination, which is also reportedly home to Islamic militants and gangs known for kidnapping people, Mohammad Mentek, director of Eastern Sabah Security Command, reportedly said.
"We have handed this to the police to quickly investigate and come up with full report," Mentek said, in a statement, according to Reuters.
The incident could worsen ties between China and Malaysia, which have been strained over the hunt for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, which disappeared on March 8 with 153 Chinese nationals on board.
According to Xinhua, the Chinese government expressed its concern over the alleged abduction of the Chinese tourist. And, on Thursday, Liu Quan, the consul-general in Kuching, reportedly held an urgent meeting with Sabah's top tourism official, Masidi Manjun, and State Police Commissioner Hamza Taib, and urged them to carry out a fast rescue operation. Chinese embassy officials also were on their way to the island resort, on the southeastern side of Sabah, Xinhua added.
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The attackers are suspected to be part of Abu Sayyaf, a Filipino militant Muslim group that is known for carrying out sea-borne kidnappings for ransom in the region, Fox News reported, citing an intelligence official from the Philippines.
In February, more than 100 armed Filipinos had reached an area close to the Singamata resort, which lies just south of the southwestern tip of the Philippine archipelago, by boats and launched attacks on Malaysian security forces, sparking a major security threat. In November, suspected Abu Sayyaf militants landed on nearby Pom-Pom Island, off Semporna, killing a tourist from Taiwan and kidnapping his wife. The woman was released a month later in the southern Philippines.