KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Six masked assailants took 20 people, including foreign tourists, hostage from an eastern Malaysian island considered one of the world's top diving spots, police said Monday.

Information relayed to authorities said the hostages were safe, according to Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar. He would not elaborate.

The abductors surprised and captured the group on Sipadan Island late Sunday, said Sulaiman Junaidi, police chief of Semporna, the port city where divers catch boats headed for the lush island.

The hostage-takers were speaking the Filipino language of Tausug, officials said. The abductors made no demands and fled in a fishing boat that appeared to be heading to the Philippines, they said.

Two Americans escaped by diving from the boat, said M.H. Arshad, Malaysian Ambassador to the Philippines.

Officials said the remaining hostages included two French tourists, three Germans, two South Africans, two Finns and one Lebanese, as well as one Filipino worker and nine Malaysians.