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16th June, 2016

SIBU: To the Abu Sayyaf hell-hole and back. When four Sarawakians were kidnapped by armed militants of the dreaded Abu Sayyaf on April 1, their recurring nightmare was constantly headlined by a vision of being beheaded by their captors.

The proverbial Sword of Damocles hung over their head.

For brothers, Wong Teck Kang, 31, and Teck Chii, 29, their cousin Johnny Lau Jung Hien, 21, and Wong Hung Sing, 34, the ordeal was akin to waiting on death row.

It was not if, but when they would be killed. They gave up ever seeing their families or loved ones again. In short, the four found themselves in a ‘Catch 22’ situation.

If they did not die at the hands of the Abu Sayyaf, chances were they might be killed in the intermittent bombing operation by the Philippine military.

“We really feared for our lives. Never thought of returning. We just hoped to live one day at a time,” said Teck Kang.

The four from Sibu were kidnapped from a commercial barge, MV Massive 6 in the waters off Pulau Ligitan on April 1 while returning to Tawau, Sabah after sending a cargo of wood to Manila.

Met by reporters at their family home in Pulau Li Hua here yesterday, Teck Kang related how they were kidnapped from the barge by seven armed masked men and taken to an island.

“Initially, we were kept in the island for three days. There was no food or drink so we survived on rainwater,” he spoke on behalf of the other three victims.

It was only when the victims were taken to a hideout deep in a mountainous region that they were given regular meals of rice and fish with a litre of water to be shared among them.

The thick jungle canopy made it virtually impossible for military helicopters to spot them on the ground. “Even the food supply was uncertain. On some days, there was food and sometimes, we just go without food. We slept on the ground and kept our fingers crossed that we would not be struck by military bombing every other night,” he said.

According to Teck Kang, they were chained on the leg at all times except when moving to another place or answering the call of nature.

Sometimes, they were slapped for talking to one another and at times, for no reason when the armed men were not in a good mood.

Once, they were shown a recording of the beheading of a Caucasian kidnap victim.

“I do not know the reason (for showing the recording) but we were terrified,” he said, adding that perhaps, it was to frighten them into convincing their families to pay ransom to secure their release.

He said the group, at times allowed them to speak to their families, including discussions on the ransom payment. On the morning of June 8, they were taken to a boat and travelled to Sabah before reaching a jetty in Sandakan at 6am when the seven armed men who could speak Malay and English, told them they need not worry as they were safe now.

After freeing the four, the armed men left Sabah waters. Asked if they would still work as sailors, the answer was an emphatic ‘No’. This was because they had learnt their lesson.

For Teck Kang, he wants to forget the kidnapping episode and continue life with his family, especially his wife, Le Thi Thunh Thuy, 27, their three-year-old son and three-month-old baby boy.

He was very tired and hoped none would ask him about the kidnap as he wanted to forget the entire ordeal. The victims and their families bowed before the reporters as a gesture of thanks and appreciation to the people, government and police for helping to secure their release. – Bernama

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