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Abu Sayyaf splinter cell behind kidnap of cousins


NO RANSOM YET: Police believe victims will be handed over to militants' leaders

 KUALA LUMPUR: THE abduction of two cousins from an oil palm plantation in Lahad Datu, Sabah, last week was believed to have been the work of Abu Sayyaf militants.

It is believed that a splinter cell from the Abu Sayyaf group pulled off the kidnapping and that they were currently hiding with the victims on a secluded island before handing them over to the militants' leaders.

"Initial reports revealed that the splinter cell is making its way back to the Abu Sayyaf hideout in the southern Philippines," an intelligence source disclosed.

"The splinter cell is only responsible for abducting victims. Ransom demands will be made by a more established group."

Although the incident occurred about a week ago, the victims' families had yet to receive any ransom demands.

The source said Philippine authorities had been alerted to the case and were expected to help locate the two.

In the incident, five gunmen stormed an oil palm plantation in the Felda Sahabat area, about 110km from Lahad Datu.

The gunmen, clad in army fatigues, abducted a 33-year-old plantation manager and his 25-year-old assistant, who is also his cousin.

The cousins were inspecting a swiftlet house in the plantation with two workers when they were approached by their abductors.

The two, along with two other workers, were taken to a beach about 2km away near Kampung Manakayan, before being forced into a boat.

The gunmen released the workers before speeding off to the Celebes Sea. The authorities had described the abduction as well planned.

"The gunmen knew the area well and had done their homework before carrying out the abduction," the source said.

The last reported abduction from the east coast of Sabah was in 2010 when two seaweed farmers were taken from Sebangkat Island off Semporna.

The two farmers were taken by gunmen to Tawi-Tawi Island and released unharmed in December that year. A ransom was paid to secure their release.

In 2003, seven foreigners were taken hostage from a resort located in an oil palm estate in Silam, Lahad Datu.

In 2000, two abductions took place when the Abu Sayyaf kidnapped 23 people, including tourists, from Sipadan.

In the second incident, they took three Malaysians from Pulau Pandanan off Semporna.

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