KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Gunmen kidnapped a Chinese tourist and a Filipino hotel worker, both women, from a beach resort on an island off the coast of Malaysian Borneo, the Chinese and Malaysian authorities said Thursday, spurring an international manhunt.
The abductions, which occurred late Wednesday, appeared to be the work of insurgents from the nearby islands of the southern Philippines who have been fighting the Filipino government for years, security experts said. The kidnapping risked complicating ties between China and Malaysia, already strained over the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.
The women were taken from the Singamata Reef Resort, a diving and snorkeling retreat built on stilts on Singamata Island off the coast of Sabah, a state on Borneo, in eastern Malaysia.
Chinese tourists at the resort told a Chinese newspaper, The Huaxi Metropolitan Daily that they had heard gunshots as gunmen stormed the hotel, seized the victims and spirited them away on speedboats. Photos posted on the newspaper’s website and reportedly taken during the attack show hotel guests crouching behind upturned tables. There were about 60 Chinese guests at the hotel, the paper said.
Various armed groups, including Muslim separatist factions fighting to establish an independent state, operate throughout the southern Philippines and use kidnappings for ransom to help finance their operations.