BBC, May 17, 2003
By John McLean, BBC correspondent in Manila
The last two surviving hostages held by the Abu Sayyaf group in the southern Philippines have escaped from their captors.
The security forces said the two Filipino women were now safe in their hands.
The Abu Sayyaf is a group of armed Filipino Muslims which the United States regards as terrorists.
Only one of the Abu Sayyaf’s hostages now remains unaccounted for and military officers say they believe he is dead.
A military spokesman said soldiers had recovered the hostages on the island of Jolo, a stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf in the extreme south-west of the Philippines. Both women were said to be unharmed.
They were among six members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who were abducted on Jolo in August last year.
The kidnappers beheaded two male hostages. Two other women hostages escaped earlier this year.
The Abu Sayyaf comprises a few dozen armed Filipino Muslims whose main occupation is kidnapping for ransom.
In the past few years, the group has kidnapped scores of Filipinos and foreigners and has killed many of its captives.
The United States regards the kidnappers as terrorists because they once had links with Osama Bin Laden.
The Philippine Government has deployed thousands of troops in the south in an effort to rescue the last of the hostages and eradicate the Abu Sayyaf.
The US also sent troops to the region to train and equip the Philippine armed forces for what they consider part of the war on terrorism.