Indonesian President Joko Widodo announced Wednesday that four sailors held hostage have been freed. Photo by Wang Ye/UPI | License Photo
JAKARTA, May 11 (UPI) -- An Islamist militant group in the Philippines that beheaded a Canadian has released four Indonesian seamen they have been holding captive.
The men, who were abducted on April 15 by the group Abu Sayyaf, are now in the hands of the Philippine authorities and will be handed over to the Indonesian government soon, President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo said on Wednesday.
He gave no further details regarding their release.
The men had been working as crew members aboard the tugboat Henry and barge Christie, sailing in Malaysian and Philippine waters when they were taken hostage.
On May 1, Abu Sayyaf freed 10 other Indonesian sailors who they took hostage on March 26.
The group is still holding a Canadian hostage, along with a Norwegian, Dutch, Chinese, four Malaysians and seven Filipinos.
Abu Sayyaf claimed responsibility for the April 25 beheading of former Canadian journalist John Ridsdel in the southern Philippine province of Sulu, after it failed to get a ransom of $6.3 million.
Ridsdel, 68, from Calgary, and the three surviving hostages were captured last September by Abu Sayyaf, which has reportedly demanded about $20 million for their release.
They were abducted from Oceanview Resort on Samal Island by nearly a dozen militants posing as tourists, and authorities believe they were taken to the jungles of Jolo Island.
Despite reportedly having just a few hundred armed followers, Abu Sayyaf, which was founded in 1991, has managed to survive numerous attacks by the Philippine army. It aims to establish an independent Islamic state on Mindanao, the southernmost major island of the predominantly Catholic Philippines.
The group, which has been designated a terrorist organization by the Philippines, the United States and the United Nations, swore loyalty to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State in 2014. It has since intensified its fundraising drive by taking hostages and demanding ransoms.