MALAYSIAN authorities believed that the suspects in the recent kidnapping of two Malaysian-Chinese businessmen off Sabah are Malaysians and not Filipino militants from the Abu Sayyaf Group as earlier reported by Philippine National Police (PNP).

“Their suspects are Malaysians, not (Abu Sayyaf)...As far as Malaysian authorities, the suspects are Malaysians,” Ben Dolorfino, commander of the Zamboanga City-based Western Mindanao Command, said over a phone interview.

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Dolorfino said the military is verifying the possible involvement of the Abu Sayyaf, merely as a “precautionary measure.”

The Abu Sayyaf had kidnapped 21 foreign tourists from the Sipadan diving resort in Malaysia in April 2000 and brought the victims to Sulu.

Earlier reports had it that the two Malaysian-Chinese businessmen - Chen Yui Chung and Lai Wong Chung – were snatched about 2 p.m. Monday at Sivangkat island in Semporna, Sabah by a group of Abu Sayyaf men led by sub-leader Albader Parad.

A report from the PNP also indicated that the victims were boarded to two speedboats and then taken to Siasi town in Sulu, after refueling in Tawi-Tawi.

“There is no confirmatory report (that they are in Sulu), there is negative sighting,” said Dolorfino.

When told that the PNP had tagged Parad as the leader of the group, which kidnapped the two, Dolorfino said the information could have been based on assumptions, taking into account previous information about the plan of the Abu Sayyaf to carry out a kidnapping in Malaysia.

“They might have merged the (information) because the intelligence community has information about a plan of the Abu Sayyaf to kidnap there. They may have merged (the information),” said Dolorfino.

Dolorfino said they received the intelligence information about the planned kidnapping by the Abu Sayyaf in Malaysia middle of January.

“But it’s possible (that the Abu Sayyaf was behind) but in the absence of positive sightings, we can’t declare that they are here (in our area). The intelligence community is exerting effort to determine if they entered here but so far there is still no confirmatory report… There is still no indication,” he added.

According to him, Navy units have been also deployed for the possible conduct of maritime interdiction operation “but there is still no positive result.”

When asked if the Abu Sayyaf is still capable of carrying out kidnapping in Malaysia, Dolorfino said: “They have the capability.. It’s the nature of the Abu Sayyaf to use pump boats because they have to return immediately (to Mindanao).” (VR/Sunnex)