2000 Sipadan kidnappings

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Sipadan kidnappings of 2000
Part of Islamic insurgency in the Philippines
Sipadan is located in Malaysia
Sipadan (Malaysia)
Location of Sipadan Island in Malaysia
Coordinates Coordinates: 4°06′53″N 118°37′44″E / 4.114683°N 118.628756°E / 4.114683; 118.628756
Date 23 April 2000 – 19 September 2000 (UTC+8)
Target Local and foreign tourists
Attack type
Hostage situation
Weapons Automatic weapons, Grenades and Rocket Propelled Grenades
Deaths None
Non-fatal injuries
Assailants Around 6 Islamist militants

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 April 23, 2000, by up to six Abu Sayyaf guerrillas.[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]

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]

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

The crisis[edit]

On April 23, 2000, six men armed with assault rifles and several rocket-propelled grenades arrive by a speedboat on the Sipadan resort island off the eastern coast of Borneo. They proceed to abduct 21 individuals from the dining hall where dinner was being served.[1] The hostages include 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]

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 militants under the command of a Commander 'Robot', a pseudonym of Galib Andang.[6]

Captivity in Jolo[edit]

On May 6, 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 militants were reported to have demanded a ransom of $2 million for the release of the ailing German tourist among their captives.[8]

Around May 8, 2000, the militants holding the foreign hostages fired at government troops who the militants claimed were approaching too close to their position. One Philippines soldier was killed, and the militants claimed two of the hostages also died during the fighting, although the government denied any foreigners had been killed. The government 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[edit]

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

On July 2, 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 militants 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 militants on July 9, 2000.[10]

Captives released[edit]

On August 20, 2000, the final three of nine Malaysians taken from Sipadan arrived in Malaysia after the guerrillas 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 militants.[12]

On August 28, 2000, mediation by Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi saw the guerrillas 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 four 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 is paid a US$ 25 million ransom to the militants.[15]

Of the original hostages taken, German Marc Wallert, Frenchman Stephane Loisy and Finns Seppo Franti and Risto Vahanen and a Filipino resort worker were still being held by the Abu Sayyaf militants as of September 7, 2000.[16][17] The final four European captives taken from Sipadan were released on September 10, 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 militant Commander 'Robot', also known as Galib Andang.[16]

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


  1. ^ a b c Fuller, Thomas (25 April 2000). "20 Kidnapped From Malaysian Resort Island". New York Times. Retrieved 27 May 2013. 
  2. ^ a b "Abu Sayyaf kidnappings, bombings and other attacks". GMA News. August 23, 2007. Retrieved March 22, 2010. 
  3. ^ P. S. Suryanarayana (4 May 2000). "Malaysia seeks direct role in hostage crisis". The Hindu (Chennai, India). Retrieved 27 May 2013. 
  4. ^ a b "An Invasion of Paradise". Time. 8 May 2000. Retrieved 27 May 2013. 
  5. ^ "Philippines separatists' kidnap claim". BBC. 25 April 2000. Retrieved 27 May 2013. 
  6. ^ a b McCarthy, Terry (15 May 2000). "Crisis Situation". Time. Retrieved 27 May 2013. 
  7. ^ "Jungle nightmare for Philippines hostages". BBC. 7 May 2000. Retrieved 27 May 2013. 
  8. ^ "Bomb blasts rock Jolo". BBC News. 2000-05-18. Retrieved 2010-03-23. 
  9. ^ a b Paterson, Tony (3 July 2000). "Rebels kidnap German journalist in Philippines". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 27 May 2013. 
  10. ^ a b c d "Philippine hostages head for Libya". BBC News. 2000-08-28. Retrieved 2010-03-23. 
  11. ^ a b "Timeline: Hostage crisis in the Philippines". CNN. 25 August 2002. Retrieved 27 May 2013. 
  12. ^ a b Baruah, Amit (19 August 2000). "Rebels decline to free hostages". The Hindu (Chennai, India). Retrieved 27 May 2013. 
  13. ^ a b Hajari, Nisid (11 September 2000). "Bungles in the Jungle". Time. Retrieved 27 May 2013. 
  14. ^ "Malaysian hostages return home after 4 months". Independent Online. Reuters. 20 August 2000. Retrieved 27 May 2013. 
  15. ^ "Jolo hostage release delayed". BBC. 15 August 2000. Retrieved 27 May 2013. 
  16. ^ a b "Philippines hostages 'raped'". BBC News. 11 September 2000. Retrieved 27 May 2013. 
  17. ^ "Hostages will be free within 24 hours". Independent Online. Reuters. 7 September 2000. Retrieved 27 May 2013. 
  18. ^ "Search for hostages widens". New Straits Times. 6 October 2000. Retrieved 27 May 2013.