By Hader Glang
ZAMBOANGA CITY, the Philippines (AA) – Philippine officials confirmed Wednesday that Daesh-linked militants have released four sailors kidnapped off Malaysia’s east Sabah state more than two months ago.
The police director of the southern Philippine island province of Sulu -- an Abu Sayyaf stronghold -- said the four Malaysians had already returned to their home country with an emissary.
The Philippine Star reported that he refused to provide additional details.
Filipino gunmen had abducted the crew from a vessel off Sabah, whose eastern coast is located just around 50 nautical miles from the southernmost Philippine island of Sitangkai.
The Abu Sayyaf is believed to still be holding several captives, including a Canadian, a Norwegian and a Filipino woman seized in September and a Dutch national kidnapped more than three years ago in Tawi-Tawi.
Since 1991, the group -- armed with mostly improvised explosive devices, mortars and automatic rifles -- has carried out bombings, kidnappings, assassinations and extortions.
It is notorious for beheading victims after ransoms have failed to be paid for their release.