Victor Okonek being subjected to a mock execution
Stefan Victor Okonek in what his captors said was his 'grave'Twitter/@JulietSAlipala

Two German hostages have reportedly been released by al-Qaida-linked militant group Abu Sayyaf after a ransom was paid to save them from execution.

The terror group had given authorities a deadline of today (17 October) to meet their demands before killing one of the hostages.

The group claims the 250 million peso (£3.4m) ransom was paid in full but this has not been verified by Filipino officials.

A senior police official told Reuters: "They are now safe and secure at an army camp", confirming a statement from the group's spokesman Abu Rami.

Their release comes just hours after Abu Sayyaf had allowed negotiations with the Filipino and German authorities to be extended. It is thought that Abu Sayyaf were keen to hold out for payment rather than immediately executing one of the hostages.

Stefan Okonek, 71, and his partner Henrike Dielen, had been sailing their yacht from Palawan to Sabah when they were seized by armed militants in April 2014. Their deserted yacht was discovered floating out at sea by local fishermen on 25 April.

Okonek and Dielen were separated and held deep in the jungle on the remote island of Jolo.

Three thousand Filipino troops had been sent to Jolo, standing by in case a settlement could not be reached.

Rudiger Konig, the crisis commissioner of the German Federal Government, was dispatched by Fran-Walter Steinmeier, the German Foreign Minister, to the Philippines last Friday in order to negotiate for the safe release of the two German nationals.

It is unknown who paid the ransom if the group's claim is true or whether the German government agreed to Abu Sayyaf's demand to end its support for the US led coalition air strikes against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

Founded in the early 1990s, Abu Sayyaf have developed a feared reputation for their use of bomb attacks, kidnapping and extortion.

Abu Sayyaf's leader Isnilon Hapilon, who has a $5m bounty on his head, recently declared the group's allegiance with Islamic State.

The terror group still holds Ewold Horn and Lorenzo Vinciguerre, both wildlife photographers from Holland and Switzerland, who were kidnapped two years ago in the southern island province of Tawi Tawi. Two Malaysians and a Japanese man are also being held by the group.