Abu Sayyaf militants in Philippines release Norwegian hostage

The Abu Sayyaf group was paid a ransom of 30 million pesos (S$858,000).

The Abu Sayyaf Group of Islamist militants released its Norwegian hostage Kjartan Sekkingstad and handed him to a Moro National Liberation Front commander in Sulu province on Friday.

The Abu Sayyaf group which is linked to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) released the 57-year-old hostage in Indanan town in Sulu province after receiving 30 million pesos (S$858,000) as ransom.

However, President Rodrigo Duterte earlier said 50 million pesos were paid as a ransom to the group.

A police source in Sulu confirmed that Sekkingstad was taken to the house of Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan at around 8pm on Friday. The security officials have not commented on the report yet.

The Abu Sayyaf group abducted Sekkingstad along with three other people, including two Canadians and one Filipino from Samal Island in Davao del Norte in September 2015.

Last April, the bandits killed a Canadian hostage, John Ridsdel, as the ransom deadline lapsed and later they executed another Canadian hostage, who was identified as Robert Hall. In June, the militants freed Maritess Flor, the Filipino hostage after receiving 20 million pesos as ransom.

Sekkingstad is the last Abu Sayyaf captive from the group of 4.

On June 25, Norwegian Ambassador Erik Forner went to see President Duterte during the release of kidnap victim Flor. The two leaders apparently discussed negotiating for the release of Sekkingstad.

The Abu Sayyaf group has been responsible for a series of abductions and has developed a reputation of ruthless kidnappers in recent times.

Earlier this week, three fishermen were kidnapped by suspected seven-member Filipino armed group off Sabah's east coast and were taken to the Abu Sayyaf hideout in southern Philippines.

Esscom said the security forces were on high alert along the border while the Philippines military troops launched a massive all-out war against the Abu Sayyaf militants in Jolo.

Recently, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte warned the Abu Sayyaf group that he would eat them "alive" as they were "beyond redemption."