Australian hostage overwhelmed, thankful after release

Australian Warren Rodwell said Monday he was overwhelmed, happy and thankful at finally being free after 15 months as a hostage of Islamic militants in the southern Philippines.

An extremely weary and gaunt Rodwell, 54, spoke to reporters briefly at Manila airport after spending two days recuperating at a military base in the south of the country from his ordeal.

"There was a great sense of helplessness and hopelessness and I am certainly overwhelmed... I would very much like to say I am happy," said Rodwell, who was so weak that he needed assistance to walk.

"What I would like to do is to convey my heartfelt thanks to the Philippine government and the Australian government (for helping to secure his freedom)."

Armed men posing as police abducted Rodwell, 54, from his home in a coastal town of the southern Philippines in December 2011, and demanded $2 million for his safe release.

Authorities say the Abu Sayyaf, a small group of militants based in lawless islands in the south and designated by the US government as a terrorist organisation, was responsible for the kidnapping.

The militants released him on Saturday after his family paid a ransom which the chief negotiator said amounted to nearly $100,000.