Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed his anger after confirming Canadian citizen John Ridsdel, who had been held hostage in the Philippines, was beheaded by his captors Abu Sayyaf. Ridsdel's severed head was discovered by the Philippine military in the early hours of 25 April.
"I am outraged that Canadian citizen John Ridsdel, held hostage since 21 September 2015 has been killed at the hands of his captors," Trudeau said during a press conference on 25 April. The prime minister added that Canada "condemns without reservation the brutality of the hostage-takers."
The 68-year-old was one of two Canadians being held captive by the Islamic State-affiliate in the Philippines. Ridsdel, fellow Canadian Robert Hall, Filipino woman Marites Flor and Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad had been held captive for six months. He had visited the Philippine island of Mindanao on holiday.
The former journalist was reportedly a friend of Bob Rae, who preceded Trudeau as leader of the Liberal party, Channel News Asia reported. Ridsdel, also an oil executive and sailing enthusiast, had moved to the Philippines prior to retiring to manage a gold mine.
Abu Sayyaf has repeatedly released video threats of the hostages if their respective governments refused to pay a ransom. The hostages appeared in several videos over many months, looking increasingly unwell in each video. The most recent video featured Ridsdel saying he would be killed on 25 April if the ransom was not paid.
"We're told that this is the absolute final warning, so this is a final urgent appeal to governments, Philippine, Canadian, and families, if 300 million is not paid for me by 3pm on April 25th, they will behead me," Ridsdel said. According to VICE News, it is unclear whether Canada was negotiating for Ridsdel and Hall's release.
"This was an act of cold-blooded murder, and responsibility rests squarely with the terrorist group that took him hostage," Trudeau said. "The government of Canada is committed to working with the government of the Philippines and international partners to pursue those responsible for this heinous act and bring them to justice."
Trudeau continued: "On behalf of the government of Canada and all Canadians, I want to express my deepest condolences to the family and friends of Mr Ridsdel. They have endured a terrible ordeal. This is a devastating moment for all of them. Our thoughts are with them as they come to terms with their loss. I would ask the media to respect their privacy at this difficult time."
The prime minister said the Canada's "first priority is the safety and security of its citizens," adding the government would not release any other information that could compromise the safety of the remaining hostages.
Dick Gordon, chairman of the Philippine Red Cross, earlier confirmed that Ridsdel's headless body had been discovered in Jolo City, Jolo Island. "A motorcycle driver threw a plastic bag in the road in front of where there were five children playing at 7.30 pm. But there was a brown-out [power failure]. When the lights went back on it was seen that there was blood on the plastic bag and police were called." According to Reuters, the Philippine military also confirmed that a severed head had been discovered.
Abu Sayyaf, which has pledged its allegiance to Isis, uses terrorism to make a profit. Public Safety Canada said: "In practice, however, the ASG primarily uses terrorism for profit: kidnap-for-ransom, guerrilla warfare, mass-casualty bombings and beheadings are particularly favoured tactics."