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Danny Chin
describes how they were ambushed by the rebels
 real 28k

Sunday, 27 August, 2000, 09:32 GMT 10:32 UK
Hostages' four-month ordeal
hostages
Most of the hostages were seized from a holiday resort
By Elizabeth Blunt

Some of the hostages now freed spent four months in captivity - since the day last April when a mixed group of tourists and hotel staff were snatched from a Malaysian coastal resort.

Sipadan Island on the eastern tip of Malaysia was known as a holiday paradise with perfect diving on its coral reefs.

But on Easter Sunday evening the kidnappers struck.

Twenty one people, including both tourists and local employees were bundled into a boat which headed for the kidnappers' stronghold in the southern Philippines.

Rebels have demanded huge ransoms
Rebels have demanded huge ransoms
They had been taken by a group called Abu Sayyaf, fighting for a seperate Islamic state.

The group is small, but has a repuation for ruthlessness and has proved adept at manipulating the authorities and the press.

After a week they released distressing video footage of their captives. Fears for the German woman, Renate Wallert - 57 years old and in poor health - forced the authorities to bargain.

It was never confirmed that the kidnappers got the $1m they were demanding for each hostage, but a deal was done and on 17 July Mrs Wallert was freed.

She was clearly glad to be free, but distressed to be leaving her husband and son behind.

The weeks wore on. In television pictures the hostages were thinner, suntanned and bearded.

Breakthrough

The numbers of hostages shrank a little as some of the Malaysians were freed - increased as a French television crew and a German journalist were grabbed and added to the captives. They had arrived to report on the hostage crisis.

A group of local Christan evangelists who went to pray for them were also abducted.

A breakthrough came with the more active involvement of Libya, which has had historic ties with the Abu Sayyaf group.

The negotiations were complicated, involving not just the price to be paid for the hostages' freedom, but also the fate of the hostage takers once their captives were released.

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See also:

27 Aug 00 | Asia-Pacific
Philippine rebels free five captives
25 Aug 00 | Asia-Pacific
Jolo ransom mystery deepens
20 Aug 00 | Asia-Pacific
Three Jolo hostages fly home
02 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Swordsmen of God at war
01 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Hostage drama highlights bitter conflict
02 May 00 | World
Analysis: How hostages cope
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