TAIPEI, Taiwan – A Taiwanese tourist whose husband was killed by gunmen in a kidnapping at a Malaysian island resort returned to Taiwan on Saturday, December 21, after she was rescued in Mindanao.
Television footage showed Chang An-wei, 58, dressed in a loose T-shirt and wearing sunglasses, walking to a minibus parked at an airport near Taipei after she arrived in the early afternoon, waving briefly to the media and giving a thumbs-up sign.
Local media said she is expected to go to a hospital in Taipei for medical check-ups later Saturday.
Chang was found by Philippine marines at a village near Talipao, a town on the remote island of Jolo where Abu Sayyaf Islamic militants are known to operate, and was taken to a local military hospital for a medical check-up on Friday, December 20. (READ: Taiwanese tourist abducted in Malaysia found in PH)
"I think I just want to say I deeply appreciate the Philippine military for giving me such a big help and assistance to rescue me. Thank you very much," Chang said in English in a pre-recorded message aired by several Taiwanese news channels on Saturday.
Chang and her husband Hsu Li-min were holidaying on Pom Pom island in Sabah state, which is near the Sulu island group that includes Jolo, when gunmen attacked on November 15, kidnapping her and killing her husband, according to Taiwanese officials and media.
Foreign ministry officials in Taiwan said that Hsu's body was cremated in Malaysia and that his family brought back his ashes to Taiwan last month.
Taiwanese media said Chang's family allegedly paid the kidnappers around $300,000 in ransom to secure her release.
"She was not abused ... the kidnappers wanted money, not her life," Chang's brother Chang Ta-kung told reporters. He declined to disclose any detail relating to the negotiations for her release.
Philippine authorities said the identities of Chang's kidnappers were unknown, though Abu Sayyaf gunmen who are known to carry out kidnappings operate in the area.
A Jordanian television reporter, Bakr Atyani, walked free from a Jolo jungle earlier this month, 18 months after he was abducted by the Islamist militants. The Abu Sayyaf is a small Islamist movement that has been blamed for a string of terrorist attacks and kidnappings of foreigners in the Philippines. (READ: Jordanian reporter freed by Abu Sayyaf)
US Special Forces have been rotating through Jolo and other parts of Mindanao for more than a decade to train local troops battling the group, which is on Washington's list of "foreign terrorist organisations".
Abu Sayyaf gunmen are believed still to hold a number of foreign as well as Filipino hostages on Jolo, including two European birdwatchers and a Japanese treasure hunter, according to Philippine officials. – Rappler.com