Abu Sayyaf militants release two Indonesian hostages; 23 still in captivity

The authoities say the terms of release for the Indonesians were not disclosed.

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The Abu Sayyaf militants have released two Indonesian hostages in Philippines, the military said on Monday. Both of them were kidnapped along with five other crew members of a tugboat off the southern Philippines in June. The other people were already released.

The military said in a statement that the freed hostages, who were handed over to the military on Monday, were undergoing medical checks and would later be handed over to the Indonesian government representatives.

According to reports, the militants handed the two over to the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). Later, MNLF, a former Muslim separatist rebel group in the strife-torn island of Jolo, passed the hostages to a local official.

"Indonesian (hostages) Mohammad Nazer and Robin Peter were released by the (Abu Sayyaf) captors to MNLF Commander Tahir Sali... after being pressured by non-stop operations of (military joint task force) Sulu and pressure by the MNLF," the military statement said.

The Abu Sayyaf group, linked to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), still has about 18 foreign hostages and five local captives. Most of them were abducted from vessels off the southern Philippines.

The militant group is fairly small with about 400 members, but it is known for kidnapping people and demanding millions of dollars in ransom. If they fail to receive the ransom on time, they have been seen beheading their hostages. However, in this case, the terms of release for the Indonesians were not disclosed.

In recent days, the group has been the target of a renewed military offensive in Jolo. The military said at least three soldiers were killed and 17 were injured in clashes with the group in the jungles of Jolo on Saturday.

On the other hand, the soldiers said they have killed nearly 10 Abu Sayyaf militants and wounded six others based on intelligence information gathered in Jolo.