Mindanao, Philippines
Mindanao, Philippines

MANILA - An Islamic State-linked kidnap gang in the Philippines freed two Filipinos held captive for nearly three months, the military said on Thursday, the second release in less than a week by a group notorious for beheading foreigners.

It was unclear if a ransom was paid but the military said its intensified operations against the heavily armed Abu Sayyaf group likely forced it to release the captives.

"We've added more forces there so that's the most probable reason," said Franco Alano, spokesman for the military's Western Mindanao Command.

Abu Sayyaf on Saturday freed the captain of a South Korean cargo ship captain and a Filipino crew member held since October last year.

The group, which was born out of a separatist ideology but is better known for banditry and piracy, is still holding about two dozen foreign and Filipino captives on Jolo island, its stronghold where more than 10,000 troops have been deployed.

The military was expecting more captives to be freed in the coming days as its operations take their toll on the rebels, Alano said.