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Sunday, June 26, 2005

US echoes Australian warning against travel to Malaysia. 25/06/2005. ABC News Online

US echoes Australian warning against travel to Malaysia. 25/06/2005. ABC News OnlineUS echoes Australian warning against travel to Malaysia

The United States backed a warning from Australia advising against travelling to Malaysia's Borneo coast, saying it was also concerned that terrorists planned to kidnap foreigners there.

The Malaysian Government criticised Wednesday's Australian travel warning on the east coast of Sabah state, saying that tourist destinations there are safe and that Canberra had failed to consult Malaysia over the announcement.

But the US embassy here noted that several kidnappings and piracy incidents had already occurred in the area this year, perpetrated by criminals and the Philippines-based Abu Sayyaf group.

"There are indications of continued planning of kidnappings, including of foreigners, in eastern Sabah's coastal areas and offshore islands," it said in a statement which reiterated an ongoing US State Department warning.

"Emergency assistance in the area may not always be available. For this reason, American citizens should defer all non-essential travel," it said.

Australia said in its travel warning dated June 22 that its citizens should avoid all travel to coastal resorts, islands and dive sites off the east coast of Sabah on Borneo island.

"We have received credible reports that terrorists are planning kidnapping attacks targeting resorts frequented by foreigners," it said.

The alert also urged Australians to exercise a high degree of caution throughout Malaysia as "the risk of terrorist attack against Western interests in Malaysia remains".

In response, Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar said Malaysia viewed any information on possible terrorist attacks seriously but that the Australian authorities failed to consult with Malaysia over the latest warning.

Deputy Defence Minister Zainal Abidin Zin also played down the advisory, saying the Borneo coast was safe for tourists to visit.

Sabah's Sipadan island came under the international news spotlight in 2000 when 21 people including 12 foreigners were abducted by Abu Sayyaf rebels.

The Abu Sayyaf, which is believed to have ties to the Al-Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiah terrorist group responsible for deadly bombings in Indonesia, released the captives after large ransoms were reportedly paid.

- AFP

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