Friday, February 12, 2010

Malaysia rules out Sayyaf as behind abductions of 2 citizens in Sabah, says labor dispute likely motive

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Feb. 12, 2010) – Kuala Lumpur has ruled out the involvement of a Filipino terrorist group Abu Sayyaf in the abductions of two Malaysian men at a seaweed farm in the eastern state of Sabah.

Chung Chen Yui and Chung Lai Wong were seized on February 8 by five masked gunmen from the island of Sebangkat, off the town of Semporma. The two are manager and supervisor of a seaweed farm.

Malaysia’s Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein said the abductions of the duo were not linked to the terrorist group, but was connected to a business dispute among workers at the seaweed farm.

A report Friday by Malaysia’s The Star newspaper said the minister also refuted foreign news reports linking the Abu Sayyaf to the abductions. “This is not true at all. It has nothing to do with terrorists,” he told reporters after a meeting with Hua Zong, of the Federation of Chinese Associations Malaysia, in Putrajaya on Thursday.

Malaysian Defense Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid also said the abductions were not an act of terrorism, but more of a personal dispute.

“It is purely a business problem between employer and employees. It has nothing to do with terrorism or the travel advisory by United States. It is an individual problem,” he said.

The Star also reported that in Kota Kinabalu, the Royal Malaysian Navy’s Region Two Commander for Sabah and Sarawak, First Admiral Anuwi Hassan, also dismissed the involvement of the Abu Sayyaf in the latest abductions.

“This alleged abduction is believed to be an inside job. We need to remind the public and tourists that our country is safe,” he said.

The Abu Sayyaf previously kidnapped 21 mostly European and Asian holiday-makers in Sabah and brought them to the southern Philippine province of Sulu where they had been ransomed off to Libyan negotiators. The hostages include three Germans, two French, two South Africans, and two Finns, one Lebanese, nine Malaysians and a Filipino working at the Sipadan Island Resort.

The abductions came days after the United States warned their citizens from traveling to Sabah because of threats of kidnappings.

Sulu Governor Sakur Tan earlier ordered police and military to verify reports the abducted Malaysians were brought to his province.

Brigadier General Rustico Guerrero, commander of military forces in Sulu, said they had alerted soldiers in the province about the reported kidnapping of two Malaysians in Sabah.

“We are trying to verify whether the kidnapped Malaysians were brought to Tawi-Tawi or Sulu, so far there have been no confirmation yet that the hostages are in Sulu,” he said. (Mindanao Examiner)

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