Kidnapped Taiwanese woman released in Philippines

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Sunday, December 22, 2013

MANILA — Islamic insurgents in the southern Philippines released a Taiwanese tourist who was kidnapped more than a month ago on a remote Malaysian resort island, a Filipino military commander said Saturday.

Philippine police and marines found Evelyn Chang late Friday in a village on the Philippine island of Jolo after they were tipped off by local residents, said Sulu provincial commander Col. Jose Cenabre.

Chang was vacationing with her husband when she was seized on Nov. 15 from a villa on Pom Pom island in the eastern Malaysian state of Sabah. The kidnappers killed her husband and took her by boat to Jolo, according to officials in both countries.

Chang told Filipino authorities that she did not see her husband being shot but heard gunfire as he was being dragged away by kidnappers who wore ski masks, Cenabre said.

Chang was held by Abu Sayyaf militants after she was handed over to them by the gang who initially seized her, Cenabre said. The Abu Sayyaf is one of several Muslim insurgent outfits in the southern Philippines seeking an independent Muslim state in the mostly Roman Catholic country.

The Abu Sayyaf, which is thought to have received funding from al-Qaida in the past, is notorious for kidnapping. Cenabre said he did not know whether any ransom was paid for Chang's release. Any such deals are normally not immediately disclosed to the media, if at all.

"We were able to recover her safely," Cenabre said. "Physically, she was all right."

In 2000, Abu Sayyaf gunmen crossed the porous maritime border with Malaysia in speedboats and snatched 21 European tourists and Malaysian and Filipino workers from Malaysia's Sipadan diving resort and brought them to the southern Philippines, where the captives were later released in exchange for ransom.

Early this month, Jordanian journalist Baker Atyani was freed by the Abu Sayyaf after more than a year in jungle captivity. He was lured him into one of their camps with a promise of an interview. Militants are still holding more than a dozen captives, including two European bird watchers who were kidnapped last year in Tawi-Tawi province. (AP)

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