2000 Sipadan kidnappings

Last updated
Sipadan kidnappings of 2000
Part of Islamic insurgency in the Philippines and Cross border attacks in Sabah
Malaysia location map.svg
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Sipadan (Malaysia)
Location of Sipadan Island in Malaysia
Location Sipadan, Malaysia and Jolo, Philippines
Coordinates 4°06′53″N118°37′44″E / 4.114683°N 118.628756°E / 4.114683; 118.628756 Coordinates: 4°06′53″N118°37′44″E / 4.114683°N 118.628756°E / 4.114683; 118.628756
Date23 April 2000 – 19 September 2000 (UTC+8)
TargetLocal and foreign tourists
Attack type
Hostage situation
Weapons Automatic weapons, grenades and rocket propelled grenades
Perpetrators Abu Sayyaf

The 2000 Sipadan kidnappings was a hostage crisis in Sabah, Malaysia, and the southern Philippines that began with the seizing of twenty-one hostages from the dive resort island of Sipadan at approximately 6:15 p.m. (UTC +8) on 23 April 2000, by up to six Abu Sayyaf (ASG) bandits. [1] Taken hostage were 10 tourists from Europe and the Middle East and 11 Malaysian resort workers, 19 non-Filipino nationals in total. The hostages were taken to an Abu Sayyaf base in Jolo, Sulu. [2]

Sabah State of Malaysia

Sabah is a state of Malaysia located on the northern portion of Borneo. Sabah has land borders with the Malaysian state of Sarawak to the southwest and Indonesia's Kalimantan region to the south. The Federal Territory of Labuan is an island just off the Sabah coast. Sabah shares maritime borders with Vietnam to the west and the Philippines to the north and east. Kota Kinabalu is the state capital city, the economic centre of the state and the seat of the Sabah state government. Other major towns in Sabah include Sandakan and Tawau. As of the 2015 census in Malaysia, the state's population is 3,543,500. Sabah has an equatorial climate with tropical rainforests and abundant animal and plant species. The state has long mountain ranges on the west side which form part of the Crocker Range National Park. Kinabatangan River, second longest river in Malaysia runs through Sabah and Mount Kinabalu is the highest point of Sabah as well as of Malaysia.

Malaysia Federal constitutional monarchy in Southeast Asia

Malaysia is a country in Southeast Asia. The federal constitutional monarchy consists of 13 states and three federal territories, separated by the South China Sea into two similarly sized regions, Peninsular Malaysia and East Malaysia. Peninsular Malaysia shares a land and maritime border with Thailand and maritime borders with Singapore, Vietnam, and Indonesia. East Malaysia shares land and maritime borders with Brunei and Indonesia and a maritime border with the Philippines and Vietnam. Kuala Lumpur is the national capital and largest city while Putrajaya is the seat of the federal government. With a population of over 30 million, Malaysia is the world's 44th most populous country. The southernmost point of continental Eurasia, Tanjung Piai, is in Malaysia. In the tropics, Malaysia is one of 17 megadiverse countries, with large numbers of endemic species.

Philippines Republic in Southeast Asia

The Philippines, officially the Republic of the Philippines, is an archipelagic country in Southeast Asia. Situated in the western Pacific Ocean, it consists of about 7,641 islands that are categorized broadly under three main geographical divisions from north to south: Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. The capital city of the Philippines is Manila and the most populous city is Quezon City, both part of Metro Manila. Bounded by the South China Sea on the west, the Philippine Sea on the east and the Celebes Sea on the southwest, the Philippines shares maritime borders with Taiwan to the north, Japan to the northeast, Vietnam to the west, Palau to the east, and Malaysia and Indonesia to the south.


During the hostage taking, Abu Sayyaf issued various demands for the release of several prisoners, including 1993 World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef, $2.4 million and a complete withdrawal of government troops from the area around Jolo where the hostages were being held. [3]

1993 World Trade Center bombing truck bomb detonated below the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City

The 1993 World Trade Center bombing was a terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, carried out on February 26, 1993, when a truck bomb detonated below the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City. The 1,336 lb (606 kg) urea nitrate–hydrogen gas enhanced device was intended to send the North Tower crashing into the South Tower, bringing both towers down and killing thousands of people. It failed to do so but killed six people and injured over a thousand.

Ramzi Yousef Terrorist convicted of 1993 World Trade Center bombing

Ramzi Yousef is a convicted and incarcerated international terrorist who was one of the main perpetrators of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the bombing of Philippine Airlines Flight 434, and was a co-conspirator in the Bojinka plot. In 1995, he was arrested by the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and U.S. Diplomatic Security Service at a guest house in Islamabad, Pakistan, while trying to set a bomb in a baby doll, then extradited to the United States.

The Philippine Army launched a major offensive on 16 September 2000, rescuing all remaining hostages, except Filipino dive instructor Roland Ullah. Ullah was eventually freed in 2003. [2]

Philippine Army ground warfare branch of the Armed Forces of the Philippines

The Philippine Army is the main, oldest and largest branch of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) responsible for ground warfare. The Commanding General of the Philippine Army, its professional and overall head, is Lieutenant General Macairog S. Alberto, who took office on October 15, 2018. Its main headquarters is located at Fort Bonifacio, Metro Manila.

The crisis

On 23 April 2000, six men armed with assault rifles and several rocket-propelled grenades arrived by a speedboat on the Sipadan resort island off the eastern coast of Borneo. They proceeded to abduct 21 individuals from the dining hall where dinner was being served. [1] The hostages, including a Malaysian police officer, three Germans, two French, two South Africans, two Finns and a Lebanese citizen, were herded onto the boats with nine Malaysian and two Filipino resort workers. [4] An American couple and a local marine photographer managed to evade capture unharmed. [5]

Sipadan island

Sipadan is the only oceanic island in Malaysia, rising 600 metres (2,000 ft) from the seabed. It is located in the Celebes Sea off the east coast of Sabah, Malaysia. It was formed by living corals growing on top of an extinct volcanic cone that took thousands of years to develop. Sipadan is located at the heart of the Indo-Pacific basin, the centre of one of the richest marine habitats in the world. More than 400 species of fish and hundreds of coral species have been classified in this ecosystem. Sipadan Island was at the top of Rodale's Scuba Diving Magazine Gold List for 'The Top Dive Destination in the World'. In fact it shared its top spot with 2 other destinations known for the diversity of their marine life — the Galápagos Islands and Truk in Micronesia.

Police officer warranted employee of a police force

A police officer, also known as an officer, policeman, or a policewoman is a warranted law employee of a police force. In most countries, "police officer" is a generic term not specifying a particular rank. In some, the use of the rank "officer" is legally reserved for military personnel.

Germany Federal parliamentary republic in central-western Europe

Germany, officially the Federal Republic of Germany, is a country in Central and Western Europe, lying between the Baltic and North Seas to the north and the Alps, Lake Constance and the High Rhine to the south. It borders Denmark to the north, Poland and the Czech Republic to the east, Austria and Switzerland to the south, France to the southwest, and Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands to the west.

During the abduction the hostages were allegedly robbed of their money and jewelry before being forced at gunpoint to swim to the boat waiting offshore. [1] The hostages were then allegedly transported about an hour away to Jolo island, in the Sulu Archipelago of the southern Philippines. [4] Once on Jolo, the captives were allegedly held captive by up to 200 Abu Sayyaf bandits under the command of a Commander 'Robot', a pseudonym of Galib Andang. [6]

Jolo volcanic island in the southwest Philippines

Jolo is a volcanic island in the southwest Philippines and is the primary island of the province of Sulu wherein its capital of the same name is situated. It is located in the Sulu Archipelago, between Borneo and Mindanao, and has a population of approximately 500,000 people.

Sulu Archipelago archipelago in the Philippines

The Sulu Archipelago is a chain of islands in the Pacific Ocean, in the southwestern Philippines. The archipelago forms the northern limit of the Celebes Sea and southern limit of the Sulu Sea. The Sulu Archipelago islands are within the Mindanao island group, consisting of the provinces of Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi.

Captivity in Jolo

On 6 May 2000, a video was released by the captors depicting the hostages held in a jungle area with gunfire and mortar rounds audible in the background. The video footage also showed a female German captive lying on a makeshift stretcher, apparently overcome by illness. A Philippine government doctor who reached and treated the captives in Jolo was reported as saying the German woman required immediate hospital treatment for hypertension. [7] The bandits were reported to have demanded a ransom of $2 million for the release of the ailing German tourist among their captives. [8]

Hypertension Long term medical condition

Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure (HBP), is a long-term medical condition in which the blood pressure in the arteries is persistently elevated. High blood pressure typically does not cause symptoms. Long-term high blood pressure, however, is a major risk factor for coronary artery disease, stroke, heart failure, atrial fibrillation, peripheral arterial disease, vision loss, chronic kidney disease, and dementia.

Around 8 May 2000, the bandits holding the foreign hostages fired at government troops who the bandits claimed were approaching too close to their position. One Philippines soldier was killed, and the bandits claimed two of the hostages also died during the fighting, although the government denied any foreigners had been killed. The government's denial of any casualties among the foreign hostages would later be proven true; however, all efforts to open negotiations with the hostage takers were then suspended. [6]

Further captives taken

In June, a Filipino evangelist and 12 of his prayer warriors from the Jesus Miracle Crusade Church offered their help and went as mediators for the release of other hostages. However the 13 were later taken hostage on 1 July 2000, when they tried to deliver 70 bags of rice and up to US$ 3,000 worth of cash to the bandits [9] [10] [11]

On 2 July 2000, a German journalist Andreas Lorenz, who was visiting Jolo to cover the hostage story, was also seized. [11] The correspondent for the weekly magazine Der Spiegel was abducted from a jeep during an ambush by a group of armed bandits who dragged Mr Lorenz to their vehicle. The driver of the jeep was able to escape. [9] [10]

Three French television crew members were also captured by bandits on 9 July 2000. [10]


Captives released

On 20 August 2000, the final three of nine Malaysians taken from Sipadan arrived in Malaysia after the bandits received US$ 3 million from the Malaysian government and freed the trio from captivity, along with one Filipino. [12] The Malaysian hostages reported living mostly on boiled rice and a scrap or two of fish each day, and having had only rain water to drink. Several had been bitten by scorpions during their captivity. [13] [14]

As of the release of the Malaysians it was believed two Germans, two Finns, two South Africans and seven French nationals, including the three journalists, were being held hostage by the Abu Sayyaf bandits. [12]

On 28 August 2000, mediation by Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi saw the bandits release six Western captives who were taken via a Libyan plane first to the United Arab Emirates and then to Tripoli, the capital of Libya. The six Westerners were allegedly set free after a ransom, reportedly of US$ 1 million a head, was paid by the state of Libya. Prior to these releases the Libyan state allegedly pledged US$ 25 million in "development aid". [10] [13] However the former Libyan ambassador to the Philippines, Rajab Azzarouq, denied media reports that Libya paid a US$ 25 million ransom to the bandits. [15]

Of the original hostages taken, German Marc Wallert, Frenchman Stephane Loisy and Finns Seppo Fränti and Risto Vahanen and a Filipino resort worker were still being held by the Abu Sayyaf bandits as of 7 September 2000. [16] [17] The final four European captives taken from Sipadan were released on 10 September 2000, and transported to Tripoli, Libya, by private jet. Following his release, Vahanen confirmed that a number of female captives had been sexually assaulted by bandit Commander 'Robot', also known as Galib Andang. [16]

On 16 September 2000, following an offensive by the Philippine Armed Forces on Jolo Island, the Filipino evangelist and his crew of eleven were released by the bandits. Three days later, the two final European hostages, a pair of French reporters, were also freed. [18]

Arrest and the death of perpetrators

On 14 January 2016, Philippine authorities arrested a member of Abu Sayyaf who was believed to have been involved in the kidnapping. According to Philippine media reports, the suspect had standing arrest warrants on 21 counts of kidnapping and serious illegal detention with ransom issued by a court in Pasig, Philippines. [19] Another Abu Sayyaf member who had been alleged to have a link to the kidnapping was killed during a clash with Philippine police and military personnel who, had been out to arrest him in Indanan, Sulu on 7 February. [20] While another Abu Sayyaf member that was involved in the kidnappings was arrested in Zamboanga City, Philippines on 7 October. [21] Also in the same year, another Abu Sayyaf member was arrested on 17 October with a .45-calibre pistol and a hand grenade being confiscated from him. However, the suspect was fatally shot by an arresting soldier while he was being escorted to police headquarters when the suspect attempted to grab the soldier's firearm. [22] The Philippine authorities also arrested an Abu Sayyaf sub-leader in early 2017 who had been involved in the kidnappings. [23] Another was killed during a firefight with Philippine security forces in March, [24] while two others was caught in July 2017 [25] and March 2018 respectively. [26] Several others were arrested in 2019. [27] [28]

See also

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