Abu Sayyaf militants free three Indonesian hostages

Authorities say the handover was done through Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) group.

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Jordanian Salafi leader Abu Sayyaf speaks to the media Reuters

The Abu Sayyaf militants have freed three Indonesian sailors, kidnapped at sea in June, in the latest release by the group after a kidnapping spree in the restive south.

Jesus Dureza, the government peace negotiator said the militants handed the three men over to a major rebel group which then released them to the authorities on Sunday.

"The turnover was smooth and now the three will get a medical check-up and a debriefing before being turned over to an Indonesian representative," Dureza told AFP.

The authorities said those three men were a part of a group of sailors, who were abducted in June by the bandits.

Although, the terms of the release were not disclosed, but it is known that the group doesn't release hostages without a payment of a hefty ransom.

Retno Marsudi, the foreign minister of Indonesia, confirmed the news of three hostages being freed. The three, who have been identified as Ferry Arifin, Edi Suryono and Muhamad Mabrur Dahri would be handed over to a team from the Indonesian embassy.

This comes as the latest handover overseen by Nur Misuari, an elder Muslim rebel leader with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) group.

The MNLF is currently engaged in peace talks with President Rodrigo Duterte after a decade-long insurgency. However, the Abu Sayyaf group is not part of the peace process.

"These recent breakthroughs were a convergence of efforts that President Duterte initiated, getting the cooperation of the MNLF," Dureza said.

In mid-September, the Abu Sayyaf militants freed a Norwegian hostage kidnapped in 2015 and three other Indonesian seamen. The hostages were handed over to Misuari who then passed them on to the government.

The same process was followed while releasing another kidnapped Indonesian sailor.

According to the military sources, the Abu Sayyaf are still holding a Dutch hostage, five Malaysians, two Indonesians and four Filipinos in their jungle stronghold.

Recently, the group beheaded two Canadians whom they had kidnapped from a beach resort after a ransom deadline passed.

The Abu Sayyaf group, linked to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), is known for kidnapping people and demanding millions of dollars in ransom for their return.