Saturday, December 21, 2013

Asia & the Pacific: Philippine Forces Rescue Wife of Taiwanese Tourist After Husband Shot, Killed

According to ABC News, Islamist insurgents in the southern Philippines released a Taiwanese tourist who was kidnapped on November 15, 2013, on Pom Pom Island, in the eastern Malaysian state of Sabah. The abduction and murder occurred while the couple was staying at a resort.

Unfortunately, the woman's husband, identified as Lin Min Hsu, 57, from Taiwan, was found lying in a pool of blood.  The incident occurred at about 0100 hours.

The victim's wife, An Wei Chang, 58, AKA Evelyn Chang, was believed to have been abducted by a group of gunmen.

Reports said a member of the resort's staff heard gunshots early in the morning and informed security personnel on the island.

COMMENT: 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. José 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.

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

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

Abu Sayyaf, thought to have received funding from al-Qaeda in the past, is notorious for kidnapping. Cenabre said he did not know whether any ransom was paid for Chang's release. 

Some thirteen years ago, 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 payments estimated to be at a $1 million dollars a head.

Earlier this month, Jordanian journalist Baker Atyani was freed by Abu Sayyaf after more than 18 months in jungle captivity. He was lured him into one of their camps with a promise of an interview with an Abu Sayyaf leader. 

Militants are still holding more than a dozen captives, including two European bird watchers who were kidnapped last year (2012) in Tawi-Tawi province.

Chang An Wei, 58, also known as Evelyn Chang, was found by Philippine Marines at a village near Talipao, a town on the remote island of Jolo where Abu Sayyaf Islamic militants are known to operate.

What I continue to find absolutely puzzling is why would Evelyn Chang and her husband, the latter of whom was shot and killed by gunmen on Jom Jom Island, not far from the Sulu Archipelago, a volcanic island in the southwest Philippines. It is located in the Sulu Archipelago, between Borneo and Mindanao, and has a population of approximately 300,000 people.

Do the scores of foreigners who have been kidnapped in Sulu and adjacent islands over the years fail to even read local media and the impact that Abu Syyaf has had on the region or even consider that this group is a formidable threat?

It should also be noted that upwards of twenty foreign embassies in Manila have warned their citizens against even traveling to the southern Philippines, yet the abductions continue. 

Are these foreigners truly clueless or do they simply believe everything that travel agencies tell them?