(From Reuters)

A Norwegian man held hostage by the al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf Islamist militant group in the southern Philippines since September last year was freed on Saturday, Philippine officials said.

Hostages Canadian national Robert Hall (R) and Norwegian national Kjartan Sekkingstad (L) are seen in this undated picture released to local media, in Jolo island in southern Philippines. Handout/ via REUTERS/Files

The group seized Kjartan Sekkingstad 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.

Abu Sayyaf, based in the south of the mainly Roman Catholic Philippines, is known for kidnappings, beheadings and extortion. It had initially demanded one billion pesos ($21 million) each for the detainees, but it later lowered the ransom to 300 million pesos each.

The group released Sekkingstad in the town of Patikul in the Sulu Archipelago and he is now in the custody of Nur Misuari, founder of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), in the regional capital Jolo, said Jesus Dureza, a peace adviser to the Philippines’ president.

Sekkingstad had been due to meet President Rodrigo Duterte later on Saturday but the meeting was canceled due to bad weather. Read More