Sat, Nov 23, 2013 - Page 3 News List

Plan drawn up to resolve Philippines hostage crisis

Staff writer, with CNA

Taiwan has drawn up a plan to resolve a hostage situation in the southern Philippines, where armed assailants are keeping a Taiwanese national taken hostage last week during a vacation in Malaysia.

“There is an integrated effort and everything has been properly planned for,” Minister of National Defense Yen Ming (嚴明) said yesterday.

He declined to give further information insisting on “keeping a low profile” for the safety of Chang An-wei (張安薇), a 58-year-old businesswoman based in Shanghai.

Yen dismissed speculation that a naval vessel might be dispatched on a rescue operation. He said the military is planning to send a vessel to the Philippines, but it is to transport relief supplies to people affected by Typhoon Haiyan.

Taiwan has been working with Malaysian and Philippine authorities to secure Chang’s safe return since she disappeared from the Malaysian resort island of Pom Pom, off the east coast of Sabah, following a Nov. 15 attack that left her male companion, Hsu Li-min (許立民), dead.

According to Malaysia’s English-language daily the Star, Malaysian police have obtained a recording of a conversation with the gunmen responsible for the abduction of Chang.

“We are quite sure that she is safe,” the tabloid quoted Malaysian Inspector-General of Police Kalid Abu Bakar as saying on Thursday. “Our officers are in Manila to discuss matters with the Philippine authorities. We have also involved the Taiwan representative in the Philippines.”

On Wednesday, Minister of the Interior Lee Hong-yuan (李鴻源) said that Chang was taken to the Philippines unharmed by the attackers.

Lee also revealed that a telephone call believed to be from her captors mentioned a payment of ransom. It was not clear if that was related to the recording that the Star reported on.

Lee’s revelation has led to a swirl of media speculation in Taiwan and Malaysia, including guesses at the amount of money demanded.

Criminal Investigation Bureau officials yesterday called for an end to the speculation, which they fear may endanger the safety of the hostage and hamper the investigation.

Bakar has also urged the media not to reveal details of the victim’s family to protect her safety. According to a separate report in the Star, Sabah Police commissioner Hamza Taib said that Malaysian police were not aware of the matter because they had not maintained communication with the gunmen.

Hamza said he had met with the woman’s brother, Chang Ta-kung (張大公), and assured him that Malaysian law enforcement is doing all it can to help locate her.

The gunmen are widely believed to have come from the Philippines and to have taken Chang back there as a hostage.

The Star reported that they likely took her to the Philippine island of Tawi Tawi and then to Jolo Island, often called the country’s kidnapping capital.

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