KOTA KINABALU (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Intermediaries working towards the release of a Chinese national kidnapped from a resort off Semporna have been given proof that she is alive.
Sabah police commissioner Datuk Hamza Taib confirmed that they have received a photograph of Ms Gao Huayuan taken in the southern Philippines.
But he declined to say when the picture was taken and received by state police. He also refused to comment if police had received any fresh ransom demands.
Ms Gao, 29, from Shanghai and Filipino resort worker Marcy Darawan, 40, were snatched by seven Abu Sayyyaf-linked gunmen from the Singamata Reef Resort off Semporna on April 2.
Initial demands made through intermediaries put the ransom amount at 500m pesos (S$16 million) but the latest indication is that the kidnappers are demanding a sum in the region of US$1m (S$1.25m) for Ms Gao's release.
The latest developments come amid news that Philippines security forces killed a suspected Abu Sayyaf member in the village of Patikul, where initial unconfirmed reports indicated that the gunmen were hiding out.
Philippines officials maintain that there have been no sightings or confirmation of the hostages or the gunmen's whereabouts.
Home Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi has disclosed that Malaysian police and their Philippines counterparts are working towards making direct contact with the gunmen.
The Philippines government reiterated on Monday that it would continue to observe its "no ransom policy" in handling kidnapping cases.