On-duty Philippine soldiers in Butig town, Lanao del Sur province on March 1 (Source: AFP/​VNA)
Kuala Lumpur (VNA) – The Abu Sayyaf rebel group in southern Philippines has threatened to execute four Malaysian hostages if they don’t receive ransom money in early May.

The hostages are sailors who were abducted by Abu Sayyaf gunmen in the waters off Ligitan Island in Malaysia’s eastern state of Sabah on April 1 while they were returning from the Philippines to Malaysia.

The gunmen, in telephone calls to the victims’ families, reportedly set an early May deadline for them to begin negotiations for the hostages’ release.

Reports indicated that the four Malaysian captives were safe and healthy.

Headquartered in Jolo and Basilan islands of the Philippines, Abu Sayyaf have been accused of involvement in various kidnappings and bombings in the country since the early 1990s.-VNA