MANILA (UPDATED) - Abu Sayyaf extremists have released two Filipino captives amid sustained government offensives in Sulu province, the military confirmed Monday.
Daniela Taruc and Levy Gonzales, teleco firm employees who were abducted from Barangay Timpook, Patikul town last August 6, were freed by their captors at around 10:30 p.m. Sunday, the Army's Western Mindanao Command said.
“The release is the result of the continuous effort of the Joint Task Force Sulu, led by Brigadier General Arnel Dela Vega, in its continuing focused military operations in collaboration with police counterparts to destroy the ASG in the province,” the military unit added.
A concerned citizen brought the victims to the headquarters of the Joint Task Force Sulu for medical check-up before they were turned over to proper authorities.
Over the weekend, a Norwegian and three Indonesian nationals held captive by the Abu Sayyaf also walked to freedom in Sulu, following negotiations assisted by Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) chairman Nur Misuarui.
Norwegian former captive Kjartan Sekkingstad met with President Duterte in Davao City on Sunday night.
Ex-hostage tells of terror as friends beheaded in PH
The foreigner arrived early Monday in Manila, where he is set to meet with officials of the Norwegian Embassy and reunite with his family.
The three Indonesians, meanwhile, were flown in to Zambaoanga City. Their custody was transferred to Retired General Kivlan Zen of the Indonesian military.
No ransom paid for freed Indonesian hostages
At least 12 hostages, including Indonesian and Malaysian nationals, are still in the hands of the Abu Sayyaf, according to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.
The Abu Sayyaf, formed in the 1990s with seed money from Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda network, have earned millions in kidnappings for ransom, often of foreigners.
The group is also blamed for the worst terror attacks in Philippine history and is listed by the United States as a terrorist organization.