Philippine troops rescue 2 Malaysians kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf militants

MANILA: Philippine soldiers have rescued two Malaysians held captive for about eight months by Islamic State-linked Abu Sayyaf group, a military official said on Thursday.

Tayudin Anjut, 45, and Abdurahim Bin Sumas, 62, were rescued in waters off Pata island in southern Sulu province, said Major General Carlito Galvez Jr., commander of the Western Mindanao Command.

The two, who were among five Malaysian tugboat crew seized by militants in July last year off the Malaysian state of Sabah, were weak and "in sickly state" when rescued, Galvez said.

"Military doctors are now attending to them as we speak in our hospital in Sulu," said Galvez.

The small but violent Abu Sayyaf group, based on the south of the mainly Roman Catholic Philippines, is known for kidnappings, beheadings, bombings and extortion. It is widely believed that no captives are released by the group without ransom being paid.

Early this month Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte pleaded for help from mayors in Muslim parts of the south to deal with Islamist militants, and threatened to impose martial law there if the problem is not tackled.

Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has described Abu Sayyaf's kidnappings as a national embarrassment, saying the number of hostages had increased to 31 from 18 captives when Duterte came to power on June 30.