Saturday, November 16, 2013

Malaysia/Philippines: Abu Sayyaf Suspected in Murder of Taiwanese Tourist 57, Abduction of Wife, 56

According to, Malaysian police said on Saturday (November 16) that an al-Qaeda-linked terror group from the Philippines was believed to be behind the murder of a Taiwanese tourist and the kidnapping of his wife.

Unidentified gunmen shot dead Li-Min Hsu, 57, and kidnapped his wife, An-Wei Chang, 56, early Friday (November 15) on Pom Pom Island, a popular scuba diving location in the eastern state of Sabah on Borneo island.

Police chief Khalid Abu Bakar said the Islamist extremist group, Abu Sayyaf, was suspected to be behind the attack.

Khalid added that the attackers were believed to have come to Pom Pom in a group of eight operatives in a speedboat.

Authorities are still trying to find the kidnapped woman with help from their Philippines counterparts, he said.

COMMENT:  Funded by the late al-Qaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden in the 1990s, Abu Sayyaf has targeted foreigners with kidnappings for ransom and has been accused of most of the Philippines' deadliest insurgent attacks.

Abu Sayyaf has also been blamed for a 2000 cross-border raid on Malaysia's Sipadan island, near Pom Pom, when 21 mostly Western holidaymakers were seized and taken to the Philippines. They were later released after the payment of a substantial ransom payment.

The southern Philippines is just a short boat ride away from Sabah's east coast.

More than 200 heavily-armed fighters landed by boat along the same stretch in February 2013 in a bizarre bid to support a self-proclaimed Philippine sultan who had staked a claim to the area. 

After a nearly month-long stand-off, Malaysian armed forces moved in to clear out the guerrillas, leaving dozens dead. Their leader died last month of organ failure in a Manila hospital at the age of 75. 

Although many observers have considered Abu Sayyaf dormant and nearly neutralized, the al-Qaeda-linked group is yet to be down for the count, largely as a result of their use of ransom kidnapping to finance their operations.

Despite intensive counter-terrorism training offered by a number of developed nations, the fact that Philippines consists of an archipelago of 7,107 islands that are categorized broadly under three main geographical divisions: Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao, it is completely understandable why various insurgencies have been able to flourish for years in a country surrounded by water.

This report will be updated as new information becomes available.