The two Filipinos released by Abu Sayyaf on Sunday night. Pic via Facebook.

Released Norwegian hostage Kjartan Sekkingstad, right, watches MNLF chairman Nur Misuari, second left, raising the hands of the three released Indonesian hostages,
center, after being turned over by Abu Sayyaf extremists in the Philippines. Pic: AP.

Abu Sayyaf terrorists free two more captives; more releases expected

TWO Filipino kidnap victims have been released by the Abu Sayyaf, bringing the total number of captives freed by the militant group since Saturday to six.
According to GMA Network, the two – Daniela Taruc and Levy Gonzales, said to be sub-contractors of a telecoms company – were handed over at 10.30pm Sunday to Philippine authorities in Sulu, southern Philippines.
They were recovered by a “concerned citizen”, the report said, adding that the two were then brought to the headquarters of the Joint Task Force Sulu in Jolo to undergo medical checkups.
They were reportedly abducted by armed men in Barangay Timpook in Patikul town on August 6.
Quoting Major Filamen Tan, spokesman of the Armed forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) Western Mindanao Command, the report said the latest release was largely due to the ongoing military offensive against the terror network.
Abu Sayyaf and its dwindling forces have been on the run for weeks in Sulu and Basilan in southern Philippines after the army launched a major offensive on the terror network on orders from President Rodrigo Duterte.
SEE ALSO: 15 Philippine soldiers killed in bloody standoff with Abu Sayyaf
The president had instructed Philippine security forces to neutralize the group after a local villager was beheaded last month when his family was too poor to pay ransom.
On Saturday, Sekkingstad, who had been held captive for nearly a year, was set free. It was initially claimed that ransom was paid to secure his release but the Philippine authorities have denied this.

Sekkingstad was one of the four who were taken by Abu Sayyaf from a marina in Samal island on Sept 21, 2015. Two of his companions – Canadians John Risdel and Robert Hall – were earlier this year beheaded by the group when no ransom was paid for their release.
After Sekkingstad, the group released three Indonesian captives – Lorens Koten, 34; Theodorus Kopong, 42; and Emanuel Arakain, 46 – who were taken in July while fishing off Lahad Datu, a coastal town in neighboring east Malaysia.
SEE ALSO: ‘Thank you, Duterte’: Norway, Indonesia express gratitude after nationals freed
It is believed the group is still holding on to at least 16 more hostages – six Indonesians, five Malaysians and one Dutch.
In Inquirer, Lt. Gen. Mayoralgo dela Cruz, chief of the Western Mindanao Command based in Zamboanga City was quoted saying more hostages would likely be released in the coming weeks, as the Philippine army continue their relentless operation in Sulu.
“We are not stopping until they are destroyed. We have a strong mandate to destroy these bandits. “Simultaneous land, air, naval and police operations complemented each other putting pressure on the ASG,” he was quoted saying.
SEE ALSO: Philippines army kills 11 Abu Sayyaf members on Duterte’s order
The AFP’s spokesman in Manila, Brig Gen Restituto Padilla, concurred with the prediction, saying Abu Sayyaf was no longer engaging the pursuing soldiers.
He also said most of the remaining hostages are in “good condition”, Inquirer reported.
“Their world is getting smaller and it will be soon before we will be able to solve this. We’re not giving a timeline but we’re doing our best to bring resolution to this problem that we face in relation to this group,” he was quoted saying.