A Chinese national working at a fish farm in eastern Malaysia was kidnapped by gunmen early Tuesday and believed taken to the southern Philippines, where suspected insurgents are holding another Chinese and a Filipino also seized from Malaysia.
Mohamad Bakri Zinin, Malaysia’s national deputy police chief, said five men clad in military fatigues entered the fish farm before dawn and kidnapped its manager, Yang Zailin, 34.
“However, they managed to escape and were headed to a neighbouring country,” Mr. Bakri said in a statement.
A Philippine security official, who declined to be named as he wasn’t authorized to speak to the media, said Filipino authorities had been notified of the kidnapping. The official said the victim was believed to have been taken to the Mindanao region in the southern Philippines.
China’s Xinhua News Agency said that Beijing had urged Malaysia to speed up efforts to rescue the man.
The spate of kidnappings underline persistent security threats in Malaysia’s Sabah state on Borneo island, a popular tourist destination and dive spot that is a short boat ride from the southern Philippines, where Muslim militants and kidnap gangs have long found safe haven.
Last month, militants from the Abu Sayyaf group seized a 28-year-old Shanghai woman a 40-year-old Filipino hotel receptionist from the Singamata Reef Resort in Sabah and took them by motor boat to their jungle stronghold in the predominantly Muslim province of Sulu, according to Philippine security officials who spoke to AP on April 5.
Last November, suspected Filipino militants shot and killed a Taiwanese tourist and kidnapped his wife from a resort in Sabah. The woman was released a month later in the southern Philippines. Authorities didn’t say whether a ransom was paid, as is usually the case.
Filipino militants are still holding more than a dozen captives, including two European bird watchers who were seized from Tawi-Tawi, the southernmost Philippines province closest to Sabah, in 2012.
The Abu Sayyaf had links to international militant networks, including al-Qaeda, but a U.S.-backed Philippine military crackdown has weakened it considerably in recent years. The group, which is on the U.S. list of terror groups, has about 300 fighters and is now much more focused on ransom kidnappings than global jihad.