Daily Express
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I did not see him being shot: Ex-hostage

Published on: Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Taiwanese tourist who was kidnapped by Islamist insurgents in the southern Philippines and released on Friday said she did not see her companion being shot but heard gunfire as he was being dragged away by kidnappers who wore ski masks.

Evelyn Chang (pic), 58, was vacationing with her companion when she was seized on Nov. 15 from a villa on Pom Pom island in Sabah.

The kidnappers killed Hsu Li-Min and took her by boat to Jolo, according to officials in both countries.

Taiwanese media said Chang's family allegedly paid the kidnappers around US$300,000 (RM986,000) in ransom to secure her release. Chang An-wei, 58, waved briefly to the media and gave a thumbs-up sign.

She is expected to go to a hospital in Taipei for medical check-ups later Saturday.

"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 on Saturday.

Sulu provincial commander Col. Jose Cenabre said police and marines found Chang late Friday in a village on Jolo after they were tipped off by local residents.

Chang was held by Abu Sayyaf militants after she was handed over to them by the gang who initially seized her, Cenabre said.

Abu Sayyaf is one of several Islamist insurgent outfits in the southern Philippines seeking an independent Muslim state in the mostly Catholic country.

Hsu's body was cremated in Malaysia and his family brought back his ashes to Taiwan last month.

"She was not abused ... the kidnappers wanted money, not her life," Chang's brother Chang Ta-kung told reporters. He declined to disclose any detail relating to the negotiations for her release.

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, which is thought to have received funding from al-Qaida in the past, is notorious for kidnapping.

In 2000, 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.

Early this month, Jordanian journalist Baker Atyani was freed by Abu Sayyaf after more than a year in jungle captivity.

He was lured into one of their camps with a promise of an interview.

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