Three Indonesian tug boat crews abducted by the Abu Sayyaf militants in Sabah on June 22 were freed to the Moro National Liberation Front in Sulu on Sunday, The Manila Times Online reported on Monday.
The three, Muhammad Mahbrur, Ferry Arifin and Edi Suryono, were later handed over to Sulu Governor Totoh Tan, chairman of the provincial crisis management, by MNLF chieftain Nur Misuari.
Calling it another breakthrough, Presidential Peace Advisor Jesus Dureza said Misuari phoned him about the release of the three Indonesians and asked him to inform President Rodrigo Duterte.
Indonesian foreign minister Retno Marsudi also confirmed that the three hostages had been freed and would be handed over to a team from the Indonesian embassy.
Sunday’s handover was the latest hostage release overseen by Misuari, an elder Muslim rebel leader of the MNLF. After a decade-long insurgency, the MNLF is engaged in peace talks with the Duterte government.
In mid-September, a Norwegian kidnapped in 2015 and three other Indonesians were handed over by the Abu Sayyaf captors to Misuari. A few days later, another kidnapped Indonesia sailor was released through the MNLF.
Military sources said that the militants are still holding a Dutch, five Malaysians, two Indonesians and four Filipinos in Sulu.