Coast guards Gringo Villaruz (pictured above, left) and Rod Pagaling (above, second from left) fled from the camp of Al-Qaeda-linked militants Abu Sayyaf and into the jungle during the raid by the Philippine army Wednesday night.
The men, who were kidnapped in May along with another hostage who was later beheaded, sought refuge at a village nearly a mile away in the southern province of Sulu, military spokesman Colonel Noel Detoyato said Thursday.
An elite military force attacked the camp to free the hostages, battling for two hours with the Islamic militants and killing 15 of them.
The two coast guards were found an hour apart and did not know of each other's escape until they saw one another Thursday at a local military hospital, where they were treated for bruises, said Captain Antonio Bulao, spokesman of the unit involved in the clash.
"When gunfire rang out as close as 15 meters (yards) from us, I thought it was my opportunity to survive so I ran away in the confusion," said Pagaling, who said he had feared he would be beheaded.
Hostages had appeared blindfolded in ransom video
The two coast guards were kidnapped together with village official Rodolfo Boligao in southern Zamboanga del Norte province in May.
The three were taken to an Abu Sayyaf jungle base and later appeared blindfolded in a video showing a knife being held to the neck of one of the hostages.
Boligao was beheaded last week and the extremists threatened to kill the two coast guards if a ransom was not paid.
Yasser Igasan, one of Abu Sayyaf's most senior leaders, was believed to have escaped after the firefight involving as many as 200 militants and during which several soldiers sustained minor injuries, the army said.
The two coast guards told authorities that four other hostages had been held with them, including a Malaysian and a Korean, who have still not been accounted for. Bulao said the military would continue efforts to free all the hostages.
Abu Sayyaf blamed for the Philippines' worst bomb attack
The impoverished islands of Jolo and Basilan in the Philippines are known strongholds of Abu Sayyaf, a band of several hundred armed men set up in the 1990s with funding from the Al-Qaeda network.
Abu Sayyaf has been blamed for the worst bomb attacks in the country, including the firebombing of a ferry off Manila Bay in 2004 that killed more than 100 people.
mh/jil (AFP, AP, Reuters)