THE Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) is still holding 23 hostages – 18 foreigners and five Filipinos – a military official said Tuesday.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson Brigadier General Restituto Padilla said among the foreign hostages were Japanese national Toshio Ito and Dutch national Ewold Horn.

He said Ito, who reportedly works as a cook for the rebel group, was abducted while treasure hunting in Pangutaran Island, Sulu on July 16, 2010.

Horn, on the other hand, was captured along with European bird watcher Lorenzo Vinciguerra in Panglima Sugala, Tawi-tawi in February of 2012.

Padilla has assured continuous intensified military operations in the areas of Sulu and Basilan to rescue the hostages safely.

On Monday, the ASG released two Indonesian nationals identified as Mohammad Nazir and Robin Piter, who were among the crewmen of T/B Charles 00 abducted in the waters along Simisa Island in Sulu on June 22. (Sunnex)