KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – Malaysian police said gunmen seized two workers from a fish farm on Borneo island early Monday, the latest kidnapping in the area despite increased security.
It was the third kidnapping in Malaysia's Sabah state since April and highlighted persistent security threats in the state, which is a short boat ride from southern Philippines, home to Muslim militants and kidnap gangs.
The English-language newspaper The Star said on its website that a 32-year-old Malaysian fish breeder and his Filipino worker were abducted by two Filipino gunmen from their farm and believed to have been taken to the southern Philippines in a speed boat. It said the Filipino worker managed to escape by jumping off the boat.
Sabah police chief Hamza Taib, in a text message reply to The Associated Press, confirmed the kidnapping and said further details will be released later.
This latest incident comes just shortly after Malaysia secured the release of a Chinese tourist and a Filipino resort worker abducted by Filipino gunmen from a Sabah resort in April.
A fish farm manager from Sabah is still being held hostage by suspected insurgents after he was abducted last month from Sabah and taken to the southern Philippines.
Last November, suspected Filipino militants shot and killed a Taiwanese tourist and kidnapped his wife from a resort in Sabah. The woman was released a month later. Authorities didn't say whether a ransom was paid, as is usually the case.
The kidnappings have hampered tourism in Sabah, a popular destination for foreigners and a diving haven. Sabah's government last month announced a curfew and travel restrictions in high-risk areas to bolster security.
The Abu Sayyaf, which operates out of the southern Philippines, has had links to international terrorist networks, including al-Qaida, but a U.S.-backed Philippine military crackdown has weakened it considerably in recent years. The group has about 300 fighters and now is focused on ransom kidnappings.