Australia warns on Sabah kidnaps
Sipadan's sea huts are a drawcard for international visitors.
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SYDNEY, Australia (CNN) -- Australia has issued a travel warning over possible terrorist kidnappings from Malaysian coastal resorts, islands and dive sites off the east coast of Sabah.
The government said Australians in Malaysia should exercise a high degree of caution, and the risk of terrorist attack against Western interests in Malaysia remains.
"We have received credible reports that terrorists are planning kidnapping attacks targeting resorts frequented by foreigners," the government said in a warning updated late Wednesday on its Web site www.smartraveller.gov.au.
"Terrorists have in the past kidnapped foreigners from the eastern part of mainland Sabah, and from the islands and sea off its east coast. Kidnapping attacks in other parts of coastal and offshore Sabah cannot be ruled out," it said.
The warning noted that in April 2000, international and local hostages were taken from the Malaysian island of Sipadan, a popular dive site off the south-eastern coast of Sabah near the border between Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines.
A group of 28 alleged kidnappers linked to the Abu Sayyaf terror group based in the Philippines have since gone on trial in Manila for that attack, in which 21 people were held hostage until ransoms were paid.
Further kidnappings occurred in September 2000 from Pandanan Island, in October 2003 near Lahad Datu on the eastern Sabah mainland, and in April 2004 at sea off Sabah's east coast.
The Australian government has also warned its citizens to defer non-essential travel to the southern Thai provinces of Yala, Pattani, Narathiwat and Songkhla, including overland travel to Malaysia.
Australia has issued numerous travel warnings for parts of Southeast Asia in the past four years -- most frequently for Indonesia, particularly after the nightclub bombings on the Indonesian island of Bali in October 2002 that killed 202 people, including 88 Australians.
It issued updated warnings after a car bomb exploded outside the Australian embassy in Jakarta last September, and in the wake of unrest in Aceh province following the December 26 tsunami.
Earlier this month Australia warned that "recent credible reporting suggests that international hotels frequented by Westerners in Jakarta are being targeted in current terrorist planning."
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