Two Malaysian hostages found safe in Philippines

Two Malaysian seamen, held for eight months by Muslim extremists, are transported by the Philippine military after they were found in a boat adrift off the southern Philippines following their release

Two ailing Malaysian seamen held hostage by Filipino Muslim militants for eight months were found Thursday aboard a boat adrift off the southern Philippines, the local military said.

Tayudin Anjut, 45, and Abdurahim bin Sumas, 62, were abandoned by the Abu Sayyaf gunmen before dawn near their coastal forest hideout on the remote island of Pata, a military statement said.

"The... kidnap victims are weak and in a sickly state," regional military commander Major-General Carlito Galvez said in the statement.

They were receiving treatment at a military hospital in the area for ailments that Galvez did not specify.

He said a Philippine Navy patrol boat found the pair, eight months after they were abducted along with three other crewmen of a tugboat that was boarded by gunmen near the sea border between the two countries.

Their recovery followed a Philippine military operation against the kidnappers on a nearby island early last month that left eight gunmen dead, Galvez said.

The Abu Sayyaf, blamed for the worst terror attacks in Philippine history, have been kidnapping people for ransom for decades.

In recent months they have taken to seizing sailors from vessels plying the waters between the southern Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia.

Maritime security officials have warned that the region is in danger of a "Somalia-type" situation unless action is taken.

The International Maritime Bureau said in January the number of maritime kidnappings hit a 10-year high in 2016, with waters off the southern Philippines becoming increasingly dangerous.

The Abu Sayyaf, established with seed money from Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda network in the 1990s, are believed to still be holding 23 foreigners and six Filipinos, military spokesman Brigadier-General Restituto Padilla told AFP.

They include Malaysian, Indonesian and Vietnamese captives as well as a Dutch bird watcher abducted in 2012, he added.

Last month the group, which has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State movement, beheaded an elderly German yachtsman abducted last year after failing to extort ransom for him.