Thursday, August 1, 2013

Photo shows Chong cousins being held captive in southern Philippines - The Star Online

PETALING JAYA: A photograph of two Malaysians kidnapped by Filipino gunmen in Lahad Datu last November has surfaced, raising hopes that they are still alive.

A photograph of cousins Chong Wei Fei, a 33-year-old plantation manager, and Chong Wei Jie, 25, an assistant manager, was e-mailed to The Star yesterday.

In the photograph, the duo held a sign stating "March 7, 2013" while the kidnappers had their guns trained on them.

According to the source, the hostages were constantly moved from one hideout to another on Jolo island since their abduction from an oil palm plantation more than eight months ago.

Jolo is about 300km from Lahad Datu.

Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Hamza Taib recently stated that police knew both of them were alive and wanted to re-establish contact that was disrupted in the wake of the armed Sulu intrusion into Kampung Tanduo in Felda Sahabat 17 in February.

Saying that it was vital to re-establish communication with the abductors, Hamza said they were waiting for the abductors to make some kind of a demand soon.

Although police roughly knew the location where the group operated from, they faced difficulty in moving forward as the hostages were in Philippine territory.

The usual method to deal with these situations is to engage professional negotiators who had contacts with armed groups linked to the Abu Sayyaf militants.

It is believed that the gunmen had agreed on the ransom amount prior to the Sulu armed incursion. However, negotiations were abandoned when Malaysian troops launched Ops Daulat to flush out the Sulu armed group from Sabah soil.

Hamza said the Bukit Aman anti-terrorist task force reviews this case every week, adding that police had to be cautious as they had to ensure any intermediary employed must be "genuine", and not someone trying to take advantage of the situation to make a fast buck.

Family members of the two have refused to speak to the media, and have maintained that they were leaving it to the Malaysian authorities to help secure the release.

Sources close to the family claimed that a RM10mil ransom demand was made early this year.
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