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    May 05, 2014

    Kidnapping victims sold for ransom, says Jolo activist


    KIDNAP for ransom groups in Jolo have become increasingly sophisticated and are now working in units that operate like a small army.

    In the last five months, there have been two kidnappings in Semporna, Sabah, by gunmen from Sulu in southern Philippines.

    On April 3, Shanghai tourist Gao Huayun, 29, and Filipino resort worker Marcy Dayawan, 40, were kidnapped by Filipino gunmen from Singamata Reef Resort.

    The kidnappings in Semporna, according to Octavio Dinampo, the CEO of NGO Assist Jolo, were not the handiwork of the Abu Sayyaf group but a kidnap for ransom group.

    He said the group would sell a hostage to the Abu Sayyaf or other armed groups on Jolo island.

    All of the hostages abducted in Semporna since the first cross-border kidnapping in 2000 have been held on Jolo island.

    The island, which is about 300km from Semporna, is the Philippines cross-border kidnapping capital.

    "In the hinterland, the terrain is mountainous, rocky and treacherous. It is the perfect place to keep hostages," said a Philippines military intelligence officer. "People in the area have close family ties. The community also acts as the eyes for the Abu Sayyaf."

    Mr Dinampo, who lives on Jolo island, said: "After the Sipadan hostages were released, it rained dollars in Sulu. That was how big the ransom was."

    Some Sulu politicians, he alleged, also sponsored kidnapping operations.

    "Each time they lose in an election, they regain campaign expenses by organising kidnappings," he said.