2 Malaysian hostages rescued from Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines

Members of the Philippine coast guard anti-terrorism unit stand next to the newly commissioned coast guard's Multi-Role Response Vessel (MRRV) BRP Malapascua on March 7, 2017.
Members of the Philippine coast guard anti-terrorism unit stand next to the newly commissioned coast guard's Multi-Role Response Vessel (MRRV) BRP Malapascua on March 7, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

MANILA - Philippine security forces on Thursday (March 23) rescued two Malaysians taken hostage by the Abu Sayyaf extremist group eight months ago.

A squad of marines found Mr Tayudin Anjut, 45, and Mr Abdurahim bin Sumas, 62, at around 2am as they were assaulting about 30 militants in a marshland district in Kalinggalang Caluang, Sulu province, south of the capital Manila, Captain Jo-ann Petinglay, spokesman of the Western Mindanao Command, said in a statement.

The militants report to Abu Sayyaf sub-leader Alhabsy Misaya.

The two Malaysian hostages were taken on July 19 last year from a tugboat, Serudung 3, off Lahad Datu in Sabah. The Abu Sayyaf demanded 100 million pesos (S$2.8 million) in ransom.

Colonel Edgard Arevalo, the military spokesman, told the ABS-CBN News Channel no ransom was paid.

"They were clearly rescued. They were found in a marshland, and they were very scared and very exhausted," he said.

The military said the Abu Sayyaf is still holding at least 24 hostages - 13 Vietnamese, seven Filipinos, a Dutch, a Japanese, and two Indonesians.

The Abu Sayyaf has capitalised on decades of instability in southern Philippines and generated tens of millions of dollars from piracy and ransom payments.

It uses the money to buy arms, high-powered boats and modern navigation equipment, allowing it to avoid detection and seize crew of slow-moving vessels with ease.

Last month, the terrorist group beheaded Mr Jurgen Kantner, an elderly German sailor, after a deadline for a US$600,000 (S$840,000) ransom passed.

rdancel@sph.com.sg