Reuters International

MANILA (Reuters) - Three Indonesian fishermen held by Islamic State-linked rebels in the Philippines have been released, the Philippine military said on Sunday, just hours after the militias freed a Norwegian man after a year-long ordeal.

The victims - identified as Lorens Koten, Teodurus Kofung and Emmanuel - were released by the Abu Sayyaf on Saturday night at an undisclosed place in Sulu, said Major Filemon Tan, spokesman in the military's Western Mindanao Command. They were taken on July 9 this year from Malaysian state of Sabah, he said.

The Indonesians were set free just hours after the same group notorious for kidnappings, beheadings and extortion released Norwegian captive Kjartan Sekkingstad, who was set to meet President Rodrigo Duterte in Davao City on Sunday evening.

Sekkingstad was taken from an upscale resort on Samal island in Davao del Norte along with a Filipina, who has already been freed, and two Canadians, whom the militants later executed.

While it is widely believed that no captives are released by the Abu Sayyaf without the payment of ransom, the Philippine government said it did not pay the group and was unaware of any payment made by other parties for the release of the victims.

"I would like to reiterate that the government maintains the no-ransom policy," Communications Minister Martin Andanar said. Now if there was a third party who made the payment, if it's the family (of the victim), we are not aware of that."

Tan said Sekkingstad and the three Indonesians were flown separately on Sunday afternoon from Jolo, Sulu. The Indonesians have been turned over to Indonesian authorities, he said without giving further details.

Tan insists the release of the kidnap victims was a result of the ongoing intensified military operations against the Abu Sayyaf, with the assistance of the Moro National Liberation Front, one of the two major Muslim rebel groups based in the south of the mainly Catholic nation.

(Reporting by Enrico dela Cruz and Manuel Mogato; Editing by Eric Meijer)

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