May 31 (UPI) -- Philippine military officials said Friday a Dutch man held hostage by militants of Abu Sayyaf in the southern Philippines was killed during an armed skirmish.
Ewold Horn, a bird-watching enthusiast from the Netherlands, had lived in captivity since 2012, when he was abducted with a Swiss national and a local guide during a trip to Tawi Tawi province, near Sulu, Deutsche Welle reported Friday.
Members of Abu Sayyaf were holding Horn, 59, when Philippine soldiers attacked the group on Friday in a battle that lasted more than an hour, according to the Washington Post.
The Philippine military suggested Friday Horn was not killed by accidental fire from government soldiers.
"Horn was shot by his Abu Sayyaf guards while trying to escape, taking advantage of the firefight," said Brig. Gen. Divino Rey Pabayo Jr., commander of Joint Task Force Sulu.
Independent sources were unable to verify the military's official statement by late Friday.
The military also said soldiers killed Mingayan Sahiron, the second wife of Abu Sayyaf leader Radullan Sahiron. They estimate a total of six militants were killed and 12 injured.
On the government's side, eight soldiers suffered wounds from gunshots and shrapnel.
Taking hostages for ransom is a widespread practice among Abu Sayyaf, a known terrorist group recognized by the U.S. State Department.
The group associates itself with the Islamic State, a declining presence in the Middle East. It previously affiliated itself with al-Qaida, the militant group headed by Osama bin Laden, who was killed by a U.S. special operations unit in 2011.
Abu Sayyaf has previously kidnapped Americans, in 2001.
The State Department advises against travel in the Sulu Archipelago due to crime, terrorism, civil unrest and kidnapping.
Horn was the longest-held captive of Abu Sayyaf. His guide and Swiss companion escaped in 2012 and 2014, respectively.