KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (UPDATED) – A Chinese tourist and a Filipino worker have been rescued nearly two months after they were abducted from a Malaysian dive resort, Prime Minister Najib Razak said.
The two women – Gao Huayun, 29, from China and Marcy Dayawan, 40, from the Philippines – were kidnapped from the Singamata Reef Resort in Malaysia's Sabah state on April 2 in a late-night raid by gunmen and taken to the southern Philippines.
The Philippines welcomed the positive development on Saturday, May 31, with Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Herminio Coloma noting the teamwork of Malaysian, Philippine, as well as Indonesian security forces to resolve coast border issues and transnational crimes.
Najib said the women were brought back to Malaysia after being rescued, stressing that no ransom had been paid to secure their release. (READ: PH-based abductors demand $11M for Chinese victims)
"Success due to cooperation of Malaysia and Philippines security forces," Najib said on Twitter late Friday, May 30, adding Malaysia would help Gao return home "as soon as possible."
Najib is currently in China on a 5-day visit aimed at boosting bilateral ties. China had urged Malaysia to secure Gao's safe return.
Another Chinese national, a 34-year-old fish farm manager, was kidnapped early this month by gunmen along the same coastline.
China-Malaysia relations have already been tested over the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 that vanished on March 8 with 239 people aboard – two-thirds of them Chinese.
Chinese relatives of passengers have harshly accused Malaysian authorities of ineptitude and a cover-up.
The plane is believed to have crashed in the southern Indian Ocean but a massive international search has failed to find any sign of wreckage so far.
Sabah's eastern coast – known for its pristine beaches and dive sites popular with tourists – has seen a string of violence, including a bloody armed assault last year by Islamic guerillas from the nearby southern Philippines.
The Philippine military has said the Abu Sayyaf, a small band of Islamic militants infamous for kidnappings for ransom, are the prime suspects in the kidnapping of Gao and Dayawan.
Abu Sayyaf has been blamed for the kidnapping of 21 people, including several foreign tourists, from another Sabah diving resort in 2000.
Twenty of those hostages were released within 5 months, reportedly after hefty ransoms were paid. A Filipino captive was held until 2003. – Rappler.com