Friday, August 10, 2012

April 25, 2000



April 25, 2000, Reuters, Malaysia, Philippines Scour Seas for 20 Hostages,
April 25, 2000, Agence France-Presse, Muslim separatists admit kidnapping foreigners in Malaysia,
April 25, 2000, Agence France-Presse, Muslim gunmen admit kidnapping foreigners in Malaysia
April 25, 2000, Agence France-Presse, Hostages being held near Philippine island group: report,
April 25, 2000, Agence France-Presse, Philippine official offers bounty for Islamic extremists,
April 25, 2000, Agence France-Presse, Malaysia counts the cost of hostage drama on tourism trade,
April 25, 2000, Agence France-Presse, Five arrested in connection with Malaysian resort abduction,
April 25, 2000, Agence France-Presse, Abu Sayyaf written on Sipadan walls: report,
April 25, 2000, Agence France-Presse, Abu Sayyaf, or Bearer of the Sword, has history written in blood,
April 25, 2000, AP / The Strait Times, Philippine rebels withdraw claim on Malaysian kidnapping,
April 25, 2000, The Singapore Straits Times, The Sipadan Incident, KL, Manila step up search for hostages, by Brendan Pereira in Kuala Lumpur, Luz Baguioro in Manila and Derwin Pereira in Jakarta,




April 25, 2000, Agence France-Presse, Muslim separatists admit kidnapping foreigners in Malaysia,

ZAMBOANGA, Philippines, April 25 (AFP) - Islamic separatists fighting a guerrilla war in the southern Philippines Tuesday admitted kidnapping 20 people, including 10 foreign tourists, from a Malaysian resort island.

"Our group is behind the abduction of these foreigners," Abu Sayyaf spokesman Abu Ahmad said in a radio interview in this southern city. He did not say where the captives were taken.

Six masked gunmen, armed with a bazooka and assault rifles, seized the hostages late Sunday during a raid on the dive resort of Sipadan off the east Malaysian state of Sabah, officials said.

The captives included three Germans, two French nationals, two South Africans, two Finns, a Lebanese woman, a Filipino man and a Filipino woman.

The rest of the hostages were believed to be Malaysians.

Ahmad warned the government to heed the group's earlier demand for the release of three men serving terms in US prisons for terrorist acts, among them Ramzi Yousef, the convicted mastermind of the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center in New York.

"There are still a lot more surprises for the government if they won't listen to us and if they ignore us," Ahmad said on DXRZ radio Tuesday.

Southern Philippines military commander Lieutenant General Diomedio Villanueva said Tuesday the authorities could not independently confirm the Abu Sayyaf's claim.

"We do not have any confirmation yet that the Abu Sayyaf is behind the abudction. They can always claim anything ... brag about anything," he told

Villanueva also said: "There are reports indicating the hostages are still in Malaysian territory." He did not elaborate.

On Monday, Villanueva dispatched a reconnaisance plane and two navy gunboats to conduct a search.

The Abu Sayyaf, the most violent Philippine guerrilla group, has also been holding 27 Filipino hostages on the southern island of Basilan since March 20.

Philippine security forces launched an air and ground offensive on the Abu Sayyaf's jungle lair at the weekend in Basilan after the militants said they beheaded two male hostages from the first group. Their action came after President Joseph Estrada dismissed their demands.

Officials said they could have staged the abduction in Malaysia to ease the pressure on the Basilan offensive.

The French hostages were identified by their parents as Stephane Loisy and Sonia Wendling, both 34, from the Paris area. They had just arrived on Sipadan for a two-week diving holiday.

Philippine military officials identified the Germans as Marc Wallert, Gunter Cort Werner and Renate Juta, and the Finns as Johan Franti Seppo and Mirco Jahanen Rista.

The South African couple were identified as Carel Strydom and Monique Strydom, and the Lebanese woman as Marie Michel.

An American couple, James and Mary Murphy, managed to escape the gunmen and have since been flown back to Kuala Lumpur.

Philippine and Malaysian authorities were in close coordination to track down the hostage-takers.

Defense Secretary Orlando Mercado said Monday that Sipadan was about two hours away by speedboat from the Sulu and Tawi-Tawi island groups in the Philippines' southernmost section where the Abu Sayyaf has a stronghold.

President Joseph Estrada pledged Manila's cooperation and the Philippine military said it had laid out a dragnet.

Philippine Ambassador to Malaysia Jose Brillantes said the incident was unlikely to affect ties between Manila and Kuala Lumpur.

"I think no, because it is clear that both (countries) are helping each other. This was carried out by people who do not respect the laws of the two countries," he said in a radio interview monitored in Manila. --AFP



April 25, 2000, Agence France-Presse, Muslim gunmen admit kidnapping foreigners in Malaysia

[extracts]

ZAMBOANGA, Philippines, April 25 (AFP)

[...]

The Abu Sayyaf, which is also holding 27 Filipino hostages on the southern island of Basilan, earlier demanded the release of three men serving life terms in the United States for terrorism.

The terrorists named included Ramzi Yousef, the mastermind behind the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center in New York.

[...]

The 20 additional captives were seized late Sunday during a raid on the dive resort of Sipadan off the east Malaysian state of Sabah, officials said.

The authorities said the group seized included three Germans, two French nationals, two South Africans, two Finns, a Lebanese woman, a Filipino man and a Filipino woman. The rest of the captives were believed to be Malaysians.

Philippine military officials say the Abu Sayyaf has about 1,500 fighters, mostly young radicals, some of whom were trained abroad. --AFP



April 25, 2000, The Singapore Straits Times, The Sipadan Incident, KL, Manila step up search for hostages, by Brendan Pereira in Kuala Lumpur, Luz Baguioro in Manila and Derwin Pereira in Jakarta,

Security forces know where they have been taken, says Najib; Sipadan declared off-limits for rescue mission

A MAJOR search-and-rescue mission by Malaysian and Philippine security forces is under way after six heavily-armed men stole onto a world-famous diving resort off Sabah on Sunday night and grabbed 20 people, including 10 foreign tourists.

The gunmen, believed to be Filipinos, then herded the hostages to a fishing boat and headed out to international waters.

An American couple managed to escape under the cover of darkness. They ran into Sipadan Island's dense primary jungle and emerged only after first light.

Not as lucky were two French nationals, three Germans, two South Africans, two Finns, a Lebanese, eight Malaysians including a police officer, and two Filipino workers.

Malaysian Defence Minister Najib Tun Razak said yesterday that security forces had identified the area where the hostages were being held.

He declined to furnish any more details or comment on the possibility of navy commandos being used in a rescue operation, except to say that a crisis-management team was mapping out strategies.

Police yesterday declared the island off-limits.

Malaysian police chief Norian Mai cautioned that Sipadan was surrounded by smaller islands, and this hampered efforts to locate the captors' boat.

"We have been advised they are still alive," Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar said.

As yet, no demands have been made by the kidnappers, who were armed with AK-47 assault rifles and a bazooka. But the authorities believe that politics is behind the hostage-taking and do not rule out the hand of Abu Sayyaf, a Muslim insurrectionist group in the southern Philippines.

The drama at Sipadan Island unfolded at 8 pm on Sunday, when a group of men surprised an officer manning a police post. After that, they walked into the dining hall of a resort and rounded up the hostages.

They did not take any valuables, did not state their purpose, and spoke English with a heavy accent.

The island is about an hour's boat ride from Sabah.

In Manila, Philippine President Joseph Estrada ordered the navy and the coast guard to tighten patrols in the southern Philippine waters as the Malaysian ambassador to the Philippines held closed-door meetings with military and police authorities.

Defence Secretary Orlando Mercado told a press conference that the gunmen spoke Tausug, the dialect of a tribe in the southern Philippines notorious for piracy, smuggling and slave-trading.

"These people were known to have brought their victims to Tawi-tawi and Basilan, or in that particular direction," he said, referring to two islands at the southern-most tip of the country.

Philippine authorities were also investigating a possible link with the Abu Sayyaf group, which have been holding hostage some 20 people on Basilan island for over a month now.

"It is possible that this could be a diversionary tactic by the Abu Sayyaf because of the pressures they are feeling now in Basilan," he said.

Meanwhile, Indonesian naval bases in Balikpapan, Palu, Panakan, Nunukan and Bitung -- all near the Sipadan area -- have been ordered to be on the alert. Patrols have also increased. --Strait Times



April 25, 2000, Agence France-Presse, Hostages being held near Philippine island group: report,

ZAMBOANGA, Philippines, April 25 (AFP) - 19:14 - The 21 hostages taken from a Malaysian resort island by suspected Philippine Islamic militants arr being held near the Tawi-Tawi island group, military sources said Tuesday.

A Philippine navy report to a military command center here did not pinpoint an island and gave only a general location, the sources said.

They also said the military had yet to confirm claims by the Abu Sayyaf extremist group that they were responsible for the weekend abduction from Sipadan island in Malaysia's Sabah state.

"There is nothing we can confirm about the identities of those who perpetrated the crime or as to the area where (the hostages) are supposedly being held," Defense Secretary Orlando Mercado said after a meeting of the cabinet's national security committee.

Tawi-Tawi, the Philippines' most southern island group near the maritime border with Malaysia, is about a hundred kilometers (62.5 miles) south of Basilan and almost 200 kilometers southwest of Zamboanga City on the main island of Mindanao.

It is composed of more than a 300 small islets with a relatively sparse population, most of it concentrated around ten towns.

Malaysia and the Philippines are coordinating efforts to track down the hostage takers, who were last seen heading in boats toward the Philippines with their captives.

The hostages include two Filipinos, nine Malaysians, two Finns, two French, three Germans, two South Africans and a Lebanese. --AFP



April 25, 2000, AP / The Strait Times, Philippine rebels withdraw claim on Malaysian kidnapping,

ISABELA (Philippines) -- Philippine Muslim rebels under attack from soldiers attempting to rescue 27 hostages retreated on Tuesday from their earlier claim of responsibility for the abduction of 20 other people from a Malaysian tourist island.

Abu Sayyaf spokesman Abu Ahmad said: "I'm not saying that we are the one. I'm also not saying we are not the one. Let's give the government a puzzle."

But he warned that members of his extremist group would kidnap foreigners if the United States does not release three imprisoned Arab terrorists, including the mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Centre bombing.

Malaysian officials said that the 20 hostages, including foreign tourists and local resort workers, were abducted late on Sunday from Malaysia's Sipadan Island by six suspected Filipinos and taken on two fishing boats towards the Philippines, which is about an hour away.

Earlier on Tuesday, the extremist group had told a local radio station: "Our group is behind the abduction of the foreigners in Malaysia and there are still a lot of surprises for the government if they won't listen to us."

The Abu Sayyaf have been holding 27 Filipino hostages, including many children, for the past five weeks in the southern Philippines.

Since Saturday, Philippine troops have been fighting their way up a remote, heavily forested mountain towards the Abu Sayyaf's main stronghold in Basilan province in an attempt to free the hostages, two of whom were claimed to have been beheaded last week. -- AP


April 25, 2000, Agence France-Presse, Philippine official offers bounty for Islamic extremists,

BASILAN, Philippines, April 25 (AFP) - 20:58 - A Philippine provincial governor has offered a 30,000-peso (730-dollar) bounty for each rebel of the separatist Abu Sayyaf group killed, his spokesman said Tuesday.

Basilan Governor Wahab Akbar also issued a "shoot-to-kill order" to his armed civilian followers for any rebel they see fleeing a military offensive to free 27 Filipino hostages being held in the province.

"The governor is offering 30,000 pesos reward for anybody who kills an Abu Sayyaf rebel. This covers every village in all seven towns of Basilan," the governor's spokesman, Hader Glang, said.

He said the bounty for Abu Sayyaf leader Khadafy Janjalani and spokesman Abu Ahmad would be more but declined to give the amount.

The military has mounted an air and ground assault on the Islamic rebels' stronghold at Punoh Mahajid mountain to rescue the hostages held since March

The Abu Sayyaf has also claimed responsibility for the weekend kidnapping of 21 people, including 10 foreign tourists, from a Malaysian resort island in Sabah state. --AFP



April 25, 2000, Agence France-Presse, Malaysia counts the cost of hostage drama on tourism trade,

KUALA LUMPUR, April 25 (AFP) - 18:04 - Malaysian officials and tour operators were Tuesday assessing the impact of the kidnapping of 21 people from a resort island on the country's valuable tourism trade.

Tourism officials said the hostage crisis on the diving resort island of Sipadan, east of Malaysia's Sabah state, was an isolated case and would not affect the general inflow of visitors.

But travel agents expressed concern it might deter foreigners and affect dive tours to the country.

Tourism is Malaysia's third largest foreign revenue earner. There were 7.9 million tourist arrivals last year contributing net receipts of 12.3 billion ringgit (3.2 billion dollars), officials said.

Heavily-armed gunmen hijacked 21 people, including 10 foreigners, from Sipadan on Sunday night.

Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad declared Tuesday that Malaysia was still a safe tourist haven despite the incident.

"It will affect tourism in Sabah but the rest of the country is not affected by this (incident). Malaysia is very safe for tourists," Mahathir was quoted as saying by the official Bernama news agency.

Although security might be lax at some tourist spots, he said there was no serious danger and promised it would be tightened up in the area around Sipadan.

Sabah chief minister Osu Sukam said the incident would not adversely affect tourism in the state.

Bernama quoted Osu as saying the situation was "safe and under control," and that security would be stepped up in Sipadan.

According to the Sabah Tourism Promotion Corp., the state drew more than 300,000 tourists last year, of whom about five percent were divers. Sipadan attracted 6,417 visitors last year.

Noredah Othman, the corporation's marketing communications manager, said the Sipadan incident would have a limited impact, largely restricted to the scuba-diving market.

"The number of tourists to Sabah will not be affected in a major way because Sabah does not cater for divers alone," she told AFP.

"It will however, affect divers who come to the islands here. The news has spread and people are obviously wary. Sipadan has been a divers' haven for the last 15 years and this is an unprecedented, isolated case."

Michael Tong, managing director of Kuala Lumpur-based travel firm Sea Divers Sdn. Bhd. which organises dive tours to Sabah, said the incident would temporarily deter divers.

"I think the number of divers going to Sabah will be affected for the next three months at least. We still do not know what is happening to the hostages and of course tourists will be scared," he said.

Stanley Ong, a manager of dive tour operator Big Bubble Center in Singapore, said the incident would affect diving trips to Malaysian islands.

Attracting divers back to the islands "depends on how the authorities go about restoring Sipadan as a safe haven for divers," Ong added.

The owner of a Kuala Lumpur-based tour agent who declined to be named said the "whole episode leaves a bad impression for tourists."

"Their first reaction will be fear, but things will not be too bad if the authorities are able to act quickly to resolve this matter," he added.

Residents in Semporna, a Sabah coastal town about 45 minutes by boat from Sipadan, called for extra security in waters surrounding Sipadan to ensure such hijacks would not recur.

"Foreigners will have doubts about coming here now. This incident has affected the image of Malaysia," said Jaihanu Intek, 47.

"All efforts to promote Malaysia as a tourist paradise will fail if we cannot ensure the safety of our country from foreign attacks."

But a hotel operator in Semporna catering for European tourists, known only as Gan, said he had not received any cancellations.

Kazya Asamu, a 43-year-old trader from Tokyo, told AFP in Sabah that he and his wife were still waiting to go to Sipadan for scuba-diving despite the incident.

"We have no plans to cancel our trip, but other Japanese tourists may be afraid to come if this (type of) incident occurs frequently," he said. --AFP


April 25, 2000, Agence France-Presse, Five arrested in connection with Malaysian resort abduction,

SEMPORNA, Malaysia, April 25 (AFP) - 13:44 - Five people have been detained in connection with the kidnapping of some 20 people, including 10 foreign tourists, from a resort island off Malaysia's Sabah state, police said Tuesday.

Sabah police chief Mamat Talib told reporters here that the criminal investigation department was interrogating the detainees whom he did not identify.

"We have classified the incident as criminal involving the use of firearms and kidnapping," he said.

A police source told AFP that the five were staff or former staff of resorts on Sipadan island east of Sabah, where masked gunmen seized the hostages in a raid late Sunday.

Mamat said there were 21 hostages, instead of 20 as reported. They include 10 foreign tourists, two Filipinos working at resorts on Sipadan and nine locals, he said.

The captives included three Germans, two French nationals, two South Africans, two Finns, a Lebanese woman, a Filipino man and a Filipino woman.

Mamat said the navy and air force had been mobilised to track down the hostages, and that "a few hundred" security personnel had been deployed in the operation.

Paramilitary troops have also been dispatched to patrol Sabah shores and strategic islands nearby, he said.

"They are assisted by fixed wing aircraft and helicopters. The navy is having its ships along our international waters, and the air force has deployed its aircraft," he added.

Mamat said police intelligence showed that the gunmen were from another country and that they were now "within the waters of our neighbouring country."

Abu Sayyaf, a group of Islamic separatists fighting a guerrilla war in the southern Philippines, has claimed to have seized the hostages. Philippine authorities have so far been unable to confirm the claim.

Nasir Sakaran, Sabah minister for rural development, said the Malaysian authorities were working closely with their Philippines counterparts and that there had been no contact with the abductors.

"The situation is still the same. We don't know where the hostages are located," Nasir said. "According to sources, they have been taken to Philippines waters."

Semporna, a Sabah coastal town about 45 minutes by boat from Sipadan, has a Muslim-dominated population of some 200,000 people, including a large group of southern Filipinos from the Sulu and Bajau clan. --AFP



April 25, 2000, Reuters, Malaysia, Philippines Scour Seas for 20 Hostages,
00:58:00 ET

SEMPORNA, Malaysia (Reuters)- Malaysia and the Philippines extended a naval search on Tuesday for 20 hostages, including 10 foreign tourists, kidnapped by heavily armed men on a tropical island resort and taken to sea.

"The search operation is still on," a spokeswoman for Malaysia's federal police in the capital told Reuters. "There are no new developments. The situation is still the same."

The six gunmen, believed to be Filipinos, arrived in two boats on Sunday evening on tiny Sipadan island, a world-renowned diving spot about 30 km (20 miles) off the coast of Malaysia's Sabah state, on Borneo island.

Carrying AK-47s and a bazooka, they forced the hostages to swim to boats nearby and then sped out to sea.

The hostages are nine Malaysians, three Germans, two French, two South Africans, two Finns, one Lebanese and a Filipino working at the Sipadan Island Resort.

An American couple, James Murphy and his wife Mary from Rochester, New York, both 51, escaped into the woods on the island before the captors ordered the hostages into two boats.

The police spokeswoman said no demands had been received from the abductors.

PHILIPPINES CHECKING CLAIM

A man who identified himself as the spokesman for the Abu Sayyaf rebel group told a Philippine radio station on Tuesday the militia was responsible for the kidnapping.
But in an interview later with another radio station, a caller who gave the same name, Abu Sabaya, said the rebel group's involvement was "strictly confidential."

Philippine Defense Secretary Orlando Mercado told Reuters his office was verifying the authenticity of the claim of the kidnapping.

Mercado said on Monday the kidnappers might belong to the Abu Sayyaf group, one of two rebel militias fighting for an Islamic state in the southern Philippines.

The Abu Sayyaf is holding at least 27 hostages, mainly schoolchildren in their mountain lair in the southern Philippines. On Sunday, the military launched a massive assault to try and free the captives, held since last month, and 20 rebels were believed killed.

The rebels have demanded the release of three Islamic militants held in U.S. jails, including one believed to have been involved in the 1993 bomb attack on New York's World Trade Centre.

FIVE BOATMEN DETAINED

Malaysian Defense Minister Najib Razak said on Monday authorities knew where the hostages, including six foreign women, were being held and believed they were safe. But police chief Norian Mai said the location of the hostages was not known.

Mercado said the gunmen were believed to be headed for the nearby Philippines, and the Navy had been ordered to intercept them.

Malaysia's Defense Ministry sent a naval patrol boat and a maritime surveillance aircraft to the area surrounding Sipadan, famed for its scuba diving and surrounded by white sand beaches and crystal clear waters of the Sulawesi Sea near the Alice Channel dividing Malaysia and the Philippines.

Police detained two boatmen from Sipadan and three others from nearby Mabul Island for questioning, local authorities said. The two boatmen picked up from Sipadan on Sunday night had once worked at a resort on the island, they said.

Malaysian police said on Monday revenge was one possible motive for the abductions but "international politics" was considered more likely.

A special police taskforce numbering nearly 100 arrived in Semporna, a coastal town about 30 km (20 miles) from Sipadan.

All remaining tourists at Pulau Sipadan Resort, site of the abductions, had left the island by Tuesday, a resort employee said.

About 20 other guests remained at other resorts on the 12-hectare (30-acre) island, but tourists on the mainland were told that day trips to the island would be cancelled for about a week.

Sabah state is on the northeastern tip of the island of Borneo, which includes part of Indonesia as well as Brunei. Sipadan is near the borders of the Philippines and Indonesia, and a 45-minute boat journey to Philippine waters.

Indonesia has staked a claim to Sipadan, and the dispute has been referred to the International Court of Justice. --ABC



April 25, 2000, Agence France-Presse, Abu Sayyaf written on Sipadan walls: report,

KUALA LUMPUR, April 25 (AFP) - 12:41 - Gunmen who abducted 20 people from a Malaysian resort island daubed walls with the words "Abu Sayyaf," "Jawawi" and "Badain," Malaysia's Star newspaper reported Tuesday.

Abu Sayyaf is the name of a militant Islamic group in the southern Philippines which has claimed it seized the hostages.

The Star said the graffiti had been found on the walls of the wildlife department office on the diving island of Sipadan.

The Star quoted Danny Chin, an underwater photographer who escaped from the clutches of the gunmen, as saying gunmen speaking in English with a Suluk accent wrote the words during the raid late Sunday.

The Philippine island of Sulu is one of the Abu Sayyaf's strongholds. --AFP


April 25, 2000, Agence France-Presse, Abu Sayyaf, or Bearer of the Sword, has history written in blood,

MANILA, April 25 (AFP) - 12:32 - Abu Sayyaf, the extremist Islamic group which has said it kidnapped 20 people including ten foreign tourists from a Malaysian dive resort, has a short, blood-stained history.

The group, whose name means 'Bearer of the Sword,' was founded in the early 1990s by a young, firebrand Roman Catholic-educated Islamic preacher, Abdurajak Janjalani.

It is estimated to have several hundred fighters, largely based in the islands of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi in the Philippines' southernmost section.

Military sources say the group emerged after young Islamic militants became disgruntled with the older generation of separatist leaders waging a war for an independent Islamic state in the main southern region of Mindanao.

Many of its members were Muslim students recruited from universities to fight for an independent Islamic state.

Little is known about the ideology of the group. The military dismisses it as a mere terrorist organisation.

One senior military commander said: "It has a history written in blood."

The group first made its presence felt in 1992, when members hurled a bomb at a wharf in the southern city of Zamboanga where the MV Doulous, an international floating bookstore manned by Christian preachers, was docked.

Several people were injured.

Bomb attacks on Zamboanga airport and a number of Roman Catholic churches followed and the following year several people were killed in an attack on a cathedral in the southern city of Davao.

Despite these incidents, the group was initially dismissed by the military as an insignificant force compared to two larger separatist organisations-- the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) -- which signed a peace accord with Manila in 1996 -- and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

But that illusion was brutally shattered in April 1995 when the Abu Sayyaf carried out a chilling attack on the Christian town of Ipil.

Gunmen razed the town center to the ground and shot 53 civilians and soldiers dead. The military said at that time the group has forged links with international terrorist cells.

In between staging bomb attacks, the group has also targetted foreigners, including missionaries, for kidnapping.

In 1993, Abu Sayyaf gunmen kidnapped Charles Walton, then 61, of Philadelphia. The language researcher aat the US-based Summer Institute of Linguistics, which translates the Bible into the local dialect, was freed after 23 days.

The following year, they seized three Spanish nuns and a Spanish priest in separate incidents. In 1998, their victims included two Hong Kong men, a Malaysian and a Taiwanese grandmother.

Journalists who covered the group said Abu Sayyaf gunmen have no compunction in carrying out violence such as beheading their captives.

Last week, they said they had decapitated two of 29 Filipino hostages they were holding on Basilan island. This has not yet been confirmed.

The group's founder, Abdurajak Janjalani, was killed in a police raid in 1998. But his death and the ensuing power struggle -- from which his brother Khadafy Janjalani eventually emerged as the new leader -- does not appear to have affected the group's operational capacity. --AFP

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