KUALA LUMPUR Two women, including a Chinese national, who were kidnapped on the Malaysian island of Borneo in early April have been freed with no ransom demanded by the abductors, Malaysian media reported.
The two women, a Chinese tourist and a Philippine hotel worker, were released from an island in the southern Philippines by the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group on Friday, The Star reported. Philippine police then took a speedboat to transfer the women to Malaysian waters.
"No ransom paid to secure their release. Success due to cooperation of Malaysia and Philippines security forces," Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak wrote in a post on Twitter late on Friday.
Philippine police sources however told Reuters that a large ransom was paid for the women. It has been rare for Abu Sayyaf to release abductees without a ransom being paid.
Najib's announcement was made on a four-day trip to Beijing, where he looks to get ties between the two countries back on track after relations became strained due to the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines (MAS) flight MH370.
The kidnapping on April 3 came as Malaysia's image in China was hurt by the missing flight, which prompted China's government, media and passengers' families to launch verbal attacks on what was perceived to be a muddled response and poor communications.
The incident was followed by a dramatic decline in travel from China to Malaysia. MAS said on May 15 sales in China fell 60 percent in March in response to the loss of MH370. Most of the passengers on the missing flight were Chinese.
(Reporting By Al-Zaquan Amer Hamzah in KUALA LUMPUR and Rosemarie Francisco and Manuel Mogato in MANILA; Editing by Matt Driskill)