Islamist militants in the Philippines yesterday freed an Indonesian sailor abducted at sea, days after the gunmen released a Norwegian captive and three other Indonesians, the military said.

The Al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf turned over Mr Herman Manggak to another group of Muslim gunmen who later handed him over to the authorities, a military statement said.

Mr Manggak was snatched off a boat at gunpoint in the Sulu Sea close to the Malaysian border with the Philippines where numerous Indonesian and Malaysian seafarers have been abducted by the group in recent months.

Three Indonesian nationals and Norwegian national Kjartan Sekkingstad (right) standing next to Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) leader Nur Misuari and other members of the rebel group after the hostages are freed from the al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf Islamist militant group, in Jolo, Sulu in southern Philippines on Sept 18. PHOTO: REUTERS

He was held for 50 days on the Philippine island of Jolo, a stronghold of the kidnappers who earlier yesterday turned him over to the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) group.

The terms of his release were not disclosed, though the Indonesian ambassador to Malaysia had said the gunmen initially demanded RM10,000 (S$3,300) for him after freeing two other crew members.

Army brigade commander Arnek dela Vega told reporters: “The release of the victim is the result of relentless focused military operations, combined with efforts of different sectors, particularly the local government unit of Sulu and other stakeholders.”

Brigadier-General dela Vega said they had no information on whether ransom was paid for Mr Manggak’s release although it is widely believed that no captives are freed by the Abu Sayyaf without payment.

The 30-year-old captive asked for food and was in high spirits after arriving at an army base yesterday, an army spokesman said.

Abu Sayyaf is still holding five other Indonesian citizens, the Philippine military said.

On Saturday, the group released Norwegian resort manager Kjartan Sekkingstad after a year in cap- tivity.

Three Indonesian hostages were also released last weekend, but the militants beheaded two hostages, both Canadian tourists, earlier this year after failing to collect a ransom.

Abu Sayyaf is a loose network of militants formed in the 1990s with seed money from Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda network that has made millions of dollars from kidnappings for ransom.

While its leaders have in recent years pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, analysts say that the group is mainly focused on a lucrative kidnapping business rather than religious ideology.

The Norwegian and the four Indonesians were released to a splinter group that broke away from the MNLF after it signed a peace treaty with the Philippine government in 1996.