Free at last: Gao with members of the team that negotiated her release. She is expected to return to China today.
KOTA KINABALU: After weeks of quiet negotiations through Malaysian police intermediaries, Chinese tourist Gao Huayun and Filipino hotel worker Marcy Dayawan were freed from terror group Abu Sayyaf’s stronghold of Jolo island in southern Philippines.
The negotiations began soon after Gao, 29, and Dayawan, 40, were abducted from the Singamata Reef Resort near Semporna by five gunmen on April 2.
Philippines National Police Sulu province chief Supt Abraham Orbita said the two women were taken from the Abu Sayyaf mountainous hideouts in Jolo island to the seaside village of Parang at about 11.30am yesterday.
“They were then handed over to the Malaysians and were taken in a speedboat into Malaysian waters,” said Orbita, who said it was uncertain if any ransom was paid.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak tweeted last night that no ransom was paid in the release of the two women.
Expressing his appreciation and thanks to the security forces for the success in securing the release of the two victims, he said the Government was taking steps to facilitate the return of Gao to her home as soon as possible.
The Shanghai student is likely to fly back to China today via Kuala Lumpur.
“I have just been briefed by the Royal Malaysian Police (PDRM) that the two women abducted from a resort in Sabah last April had been rescued by our authorities.
“No ransom was paid to secure their release,” Najib said in his Twitter update.
According to a security official, both women appeared to be traumatised despite being assured repeatedly that they were now free and in safe hands.
They arrived at the Sandakan marine police base at 4.30pm yesterday and were taken for a medical examination.
Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Hamza Taib said Gao would be debriefed and, if found to be fit, would be flown to Kuala Lumpur immediately.
According to sources, two Malaysian police officers who have been coordinating the release operations had left for Jolo at dawn yesterday upon receiving positive news.
They said the two hostages were freed due to well coordinated negotiations by all involved in securing their freedom.
Home Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said arrangements were being made to send Gao back to China.
“This is very good news and my gratitude to the police for their excellent work,” he said.
Dr Ahmad Zahid said more emphasis would be given to the security of Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) to prevent further kidnappings.
“We will boost the security in Esscom as well as the surrounding islands,” he said.
There is, however, still no word on another Chinese national, 34-year-old fish farm manager Yang Zai Lin, who was abducted by Filipino gunmen on May 16 from the Wonderful Terrace Sdn Bhd farm on Pulau Baik, close to the shores of Silam.
Futile wait at KK airport for journalists