By Al-Zaquan Amer Hamzah
KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Armed men abducted two women, a Chinese tourist and a Philippine hotel worker, from a Malaysian diving resort off Borneo island, Malaysian security forces said on Thursday.
The two women were taken at around 10.30 pm (1430 GMT) on Wednesday night from Singgahmata island off the coastal town of Semporna in Malaysia's eastern state of Sabah, Eastern Sabah Security Command Director Mohammad Mentek said.
"We have handed this to the police to quickly investigate and come up with full report," Mohammad said in a statement.
Some Malaysian media reports said the 29-year old tourist from was in her room when the gunmen forced her out into a waiting boat, but it was unclear where the hotel worker, aged 40, was when she was abducted. Other reports said both women were on the jetty when they were snatched.
An employee at the Singamata Reef Resort, contacted by Reuters, confirmed an abduction had taken place, but declined to provide details. Malaysian police could not immediately be reached for comment.
Malaysia's image has been battered in China over the handling of the investigation into the disappearance of a Malaysia Airlines flight with 239 people aboard, most of them Chinese nationals, on March 8.
The official Xinhua news agency said Chinese embassy officials in Malaysia have met Sabah's chief of police and the state's tourism minister, urging them to confirm and investigate the incident quickly. The embassy officials were on their way to the island resort, on the southeastern side of Sabah, Xinhua added.
Sabah has become a popular tourist destination for Chinese in recent years, but has faced security problems due to its proximity to the restive southern Philippines.
Last February, more than 100 armed Filipinos landed by boat and launched attacks on Malaysian security forces, sparking a major security crisis in the area close to the Singamata resort.
In November, armed men landed on nearby Pom-Pom island off Semporna, killing a tourist from Taiwan and abducting his wife. She was later rescued by Philippine security forces.
Sabah made world headlines in 2000 when Philippines-based, al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf militant group, known for kidnapping and beheading hostages, abducted about 20 Malaysian and Western tourists on Sipadan island - not far from Singgahmata island. All but one of the hostages, a Filipino, were eventually released and rescued by Philippines security forces.
(Additional reporting by Yantoultra Ngui in Kuala Lumpur and; Sui-Lee Wee in Beijing; Writing by Stuart Grudgings and Niluksi Koswanage; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Simon Cameron-Moore)