Monday, December 23, 2013

Taiwanese to Philippine Marines: Thank You for Saving Me!

A Taiwanese tourist whose husband was killed by gunmen in a kidnapping incident at a Malaysian island resort returned to Taiwan yesterday and thanked Filipino soldiers who rescued her in southern Philippines.

Television footage showed Chang An-wei, 58, dressed in a loose T-shirt and wearing sunglasses, walking to a minibus parked at an airport near Taipei after she arrived early afternoon, waving briefly to the media and giving a thumbs-up sign.

Taiwanese media said she is expected to go to a hospital in Taipei for medical check-ups later yesterday.
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, and was taken to a local military hospital for a medical check-up on Friday.

“I think I just want to say I deeply appreciate the Philippine military for giving me such a big help and assistance to rescue me. Thank you very much,” Chang said in English in a pre-recorded message aired by several Taiwanese news channels yesterday.

Chang and her husband Hsu Li-min were holidaying on Pom Pom island in Sabah state, which is near the Sulu island group that includes Jolo, when gunmen attacked on Nov. 15, kidnapping her and killing her husband, according to Taiwanese officials and media.

Foreign ministry officials in Taiwan said that Hsu’s body was cremated in Malaysia and that his family brought back his ashes to Taiwan last month.

Taiwanese media said Chang’s family allegedly paid the kidnappers around $300,000 in ransom to secure her release.

“She was not abused ... the kidnappers wanted money, not her life,” Chang’s brother Chang Ta-kung said.
He declined to disclose any detail relating to the negotiations for her release.

Local authorities said the identities of Chang’s kidnappers were unknown, though Abu Sayyaf gunmen who are known to carry out kidnappings operate in the area.

A Jordanian television reporter, Bakr Atyani, walked free from a Jolo jungle earlier this month, 18 months after he was abducted by the Islamist militants. 

The Abu Sayyaf is a small Islamist movement that has been blamed for a string of terrorist attacks and kidnappings of foreigners in the Philippines.

US Special Forces have been rotating through Jolo and other parts of the southern Philippines for more than a decade to train local troops battling the group, which is on Washington’s list of “foreign terrorist organisations”.

Abu Sayyaf gunmen are believed still to hold a number of foreign as well as Filipino hostages in Jolo, including two European birdwatchers and a Japanese treasure hunter, according to local officials.
It was founded with seed money from Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda network to fight for an independent Islamic state, though it later turned into a criminal gang.

Dutchman Ewold Horn and Lorenzo Vinciguerra of Switzerland were abducted in the Tawi-Tawi island group near Jolo in February last year, while Amer Mamaito Katayama of Japan was abducted on the island of Pangutaran near Jolo in July 2010.


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