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Talk of the Day -- President's nephew recalls rescue

2014/01/13 22:43:50

A nephew of President Ma Ying-jeou who played a critical role in the rescue of a Taiwanese woman kidnapped in Malaysia last November said Monday that the United States barred its special forces stationed in the Philippines from taking part in rescue operations.

Gene Yu, the son of Ma's younger sister Ma Li-chun, said in a radio interview that he managed to organize two special forces to carry out the rescue operations with the assistance of a professor at his alma mater -- the United States Military Academy.

Yu, a retired Green Beret who carried out many anti-terrorist missions during his 12 years in the U.S. military, described the process to rescue Chang An-wei as chaotic and said he was not sure at one point whether the operation would succeed.

In the end, Yu said the 58-year-old woman was rescued a day before she was scheduled to be sold to a larger terrorist group.

"Had Chang been resold, she would not have been able to return to Taiwan so quickly," Yu said.

The following are excerpts from a special report in the Monday edition of the United Daily News on Yu's account of the rescue of Evelyn (An-Wei) Chang:

Chang, a family friend of Yu, was abducted by armed gunmen from Pom Pom Island in the East Malaysian state of Sabah on Nov. 15, 2013 while on vacation with her husband Hsu Li-min. Hsu was shot and killed by the gunmen, suspected members of Abu Sayyaf, a militant group active in the south of the Philippines.

At the time, the 34-year-old Yu, who was born and raised in the U.S., was in Taiwan to promote the Chinese edition of his book "Yellow Green Beret," which chronicles his service as a commanding officer of the United States Army Special Forces, better known as the Green Berets.

Defying his mother's warning against his involvement in the rescue of Chang, Yu flew to the Philippines. He was originally scheduled to stay there for two or three days, but ended up staying there for three weeks.

Yu recalled that he first approached a colonel with the U.S. Special Forces stationed in the Philippines. The U.S. officer originally agreed to help with Chang's rescue, but was forced to drop the plan after his superior learned of the move.

"I then sought the help of a West Point professor," Yu recalled. Through the professor's mediation, Yu formed a small team with several members of the Philippines Special Forces.

The Philippine government also moved to forbid the involvement of its special forces in the rescue operations, but the Filipino officers did not obey the order and continued to work with Yu.

Under a two-pronged strategy, Yu also recruited retired Green Beret colleagues to form a separate 12-member mercenary group to join the rescue operation.

"The two groups were often at odds, however, and failed to work hand-in-hand," Yu said, adding that the four-day rescue operation proceeded chaotically and that he almost lost confidence that it would succeed.

Yu would not reveal further details because some of his actions were illegal, saying only that he received help from many sources. He also declined to confirm whether a ransom was paid or, if one was paid, its amount.

He instead recalled an episode in which he posed as a Taiwanese physician at one point to talk to Chang by phone. His unusually calm voice misled Chang's captors into suspecting that he was a Taiwanese spy, resulting in a two-day suspension of communications.

Thanks to Yu's assistance, Chang managed to end her 35-day hostage ordeal and return to Taiwan on Dec. 21. (Jan. 13, 2014)

(By Sofia Wu)