KUALA LUMPUR - A Chinese tourist and a Filippino worker have been rescued nearly two months after they were abducted from a Malaysian dive resort, Prime Minister Najib Razak said.
The two women -- Gao Huayun, 29, from China and Marcy Dayawan, 40, from the Philippines -- were kidnapped from the Singamata Reef Resort in Sabah state on Borneo island on April 2 in a late-night raid by gunmen and taken to the southern Philippines. Najib said the women were brought back to Malaysia after being rescued, stressing that no ransom had been paid to secure their release.
"Success due to cooperation of Malaysia and Philippines security forces," Najib said on Twitter late Friday, adding Malaysia would help Gao return home "as soon as possible". Najib is currently in China on a five-day visit aimed at boosting bilateral ties. China had urged Malaysia to secure Gao's safe return. Another Chinese national, a 34-year-old fish farm manager, was kidnapped early this month by gunmen along the same coastline.
China-Malaysia relations have already been tested over the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 that vanished on March 8 with 239 people aboard -- two-thirds of them Chinese. Chinese relatives of passengers have harshly accused Malaysian authorities of ineptitude and a cover-up.The plane is believed to have crashed in the southern Indian Ocean but a massive international search has failed to find any sign of wreckage so far.
Sabah's eastern coast -- known for its pristine beaches and dive sites popular with tourists -- has seen a string of violence, including a bloody armed assault last year by Islamic guerillas from the nearby southern Philippines. The Philippine military has said Abu Sayyaf, a small band of Islamic militants infamous for kidnappings for ransom, are prime suspects in the kidnapping of Gao and Dayawan.
Agrimero Cruz, head of a Philippines' anti-kidnapping task force in the south, confirmed that no ransom was paid to the kidnappers. Cruz told AFP that the government planned to file criminal charges against the abductors but declined to comment further. He added that authorities were still in negotiations to secure the release of other kidnap victims.
Suspected Abu Sayyaf members are believed to still be holding several foreign and local hostages in the jungles of the southern Philippines including two European bird-watchers seized in February 2012. Abu Sayyaf has been blamed for the kidnapping of 21 people, including several foreign tourists, from another Sabah diving resort in 2000.
Twenty of those hostages were released within five months, reportedly after hefty ransoms were paid. A Filipino captive was held until 2003.