China demanded that Malaysia ensures the safety of its nationals on Thursday, after armed men abducted two women, a Chinese tourist and a Philippine hotel worker, from a Malaysian diving resort on Borneo island. The unidentified gunmen kidnapped the two women on Wednesday night from Singamata island off the coastal town of Semporna in Malaysia’s eastern state of Sabah. Various armed groups, including Muslim separatist factions, operate throughout the southern Philippines, using kidnapping for ransom to help finance their operations. Authorities suspect one of these groups may be responsible for the abductions. Malaysia’s image has been battered in China over the handling of the investigation into the disappearance of a Malaysia Airlines flight with 239 people aboard, most of them Chinese nationals. Relations have become strained between the two countries. Chinese media has heavily criticized Malaysia’s response, and travel agents there have reported a slump in bookings to the Southeast Asian nation.

 

(Reuters, New York Times, Businessweek, April 3)