Philippines-based terrorist group Abu Sayyaf said on Saturday, 17 September, that it has freed Norwegian hostage Kjartan Sekkingstad. The news about the man's release came hours after the militant group said it was still awaiting the ransom money to free him.
Abu Sayyaf spokesperson Abu Ramie said the hostage has been handed over to Moro National Liberation Front commander Tahil Sali in Barangay (village) Bud Pula in Patikul town at around 3:30pm local time (11am BST).
Sekkingstad was abducted by Abu Sayyaf from a marina on Samal Island in Davao del Norte in September 2015. Two Canadians — John Ridsdel and Robert Hall — who were abducted with him were beheaded by the militants earlier in the year over failure in the payment of a ransom.
In August, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte had revealed by mistake that the administration has paid 50m Philippine peso (£803,896, $1m) in ransom to the terrorists to free the Norwegian.
On Saturday morning, Ramie reportedly said that the hostage was readied for release since Friday (16 September) night, but the delivery of the 30m Philippine peso ransom amount has still not been paid, The Philippines Inquirer reported.
The militant group also has many Indonesian fishermen and Filipino citizens as captives. They had also taken hostage Hall's Filipino girlfriend, Marites Flor, but had released her in June.
The Philippine forces, under Duterte's order, have launched a massive offensive against the group that carries out abductions for ransom. More than 9,000 Filipino soldiers were sent to Sulu province to attack the militants in their lairs and "destroy" them. Late in August, Duterte ordered his soldiers to go "full force" against the Islamic militant group allied with the Islamic State (Isis).
More than 30 Abu Sayyaf fighters were reported to have been killed by Duterte's soliders. But the militant group had warned the president of a counter strike. The threat was soon followed by a deadly blast at a night market at the president's hometown Davao earlier in September. However, the group has not claimed responsibility for the attack.