1 Indonesian, 1 Filipino held captive
MANILA - (UPDATE) Two Indonesian fishermen abducted by the Abu Sayyaf were rescued early Sunday in Sulu, the military said, while a bandit and a soldier were killed.
The fishermen were identified as Marahudin Lunani and Samion Bin Maniue. They were abducted with another companion Muhammas Farhan in Lahad Datu in Malaysia in September, according to Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, commander of the Armed Forces' Western Mindanao Command.
"During the firefights, the two victims managed to scamper away (from the militants) and we were able to rescue them," Sobejana said.
The pair were among three Indonesian sailors abducted by the militants in September off Malaysian waters near the southern tip of the Philippine island of Mindanao.
Apart from the remaining Indonesian, a Filipino is also being held captive by the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu, he added.
Sobejana said a rescue operation was underway, and that the military was expecting another firefight.
"We cordoned the area so we are very optimistic that we will recover the remaining (Indonesian kidnap victim)," Sobejana said.
The operation was also part of the military's efforts "to meet the target of the President to neutralize the Abu Sayyaf," he added.
"We are looking for the neutralization of the two key (Abu Sayyaf) leaders -- (Hatib Hajan) Sawadjaan and Radullan Sahiron," Sobejana said.
The rescue came a month after a British man and his wife were freed by soldiers and said they were threatened with beheading by militants if they did not deliver a ransom.
In May, Dutch birdwatcher Ewold Horn was killed by his captors as he tried to escape during a rescue operation, the military said, after being held captive for seven years.
The Abu Sayyaf group is also blamed by authorities for an Islamic State-claimed suicide bombing of Sunday mass at a Catholic cathedral in Jolo in January that killed 21 people.
The Philippines is plagued by decades-long insurgencies, including a Muslim-led separatist uprising in Mindanao that has killed some 100,000 people. - With reports from Jewel Reyes, ABS-CBN News and Agence France-Presse