ZAMBOANGA CITY: Abu Sayyaf jihadists beheaded a Canadian kidnapped in the southern Philippines after his family failed to pay the huge ransom demanded by the rebel group, military intelligence and police reports said on Tuesday.
John Ridsdel, 68, was beheaded on Monday in the hinterlands of Patikul town in Sulu, on the same day that President Benigno Aquino 3rd ordered the police and military to rescue hostages of the terrorist group Abu Sayyaf.
The group is still holding more than a dozen foreign hostages abducted in Tawi-Tawi province and in Sabah in Malaysia.
Intelligence reports said Ridsdel, a former executive of international miner TVI, was killed at 3.45 p.m. by jihadists under Ben Tatoh Sawadjaan in Lower Sinumaan village. His severed head, placed in a plastic bag, was recovered in the town of Jolo later in the day.
Two men on a motorcycle dumped the bag near a group of men playing basketball there.
The head was brought to Zamboanga City.
Ridsdel was snatched in the resort island of Samal in Davao del Norte province on September 21 last year along with fellow Canadian Robert Hall, 50; Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad, 56, and his Filipina girlfriend, Maritess Flor.
The Abu Sayyaf demanded as much as P300 million for each of the foreign hostages. It released several videos of Ridsdel, Hall and Sekkingstad appealing to their governments and the Philippines to pay the ransom.
“We’re told that this is the absolute final warning so this is a final urgent appeal to governments, Philippine, Canadian and families. If P300 million is not paid for me by 3 p.m. on April 25th, they will behead me,” Ridsdel said in his last appeal.
The Canadian government condemned the gruesome killing of Ridsdel.
A statement released by the Canadian Embassy in Manila quoted Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as saying he was “outraged” by the “act of cold-blooded murder.”
“Canada condemns without reservation the brutality of the hostage-takers, and this unnecessary death. This was an act of cold-blooded murder and responsibility rests squarely with the terrorist group who took him hostage,” Trudeau said.
He added that the government of Canada will work closely with Philippine officials and international partners to pursue the Abu Sayyaf rebels.
Malacañang also on Tuesday ordered the military and police organizations to apply the full force of the law in running after members of the Abu Sayyaf.
“There will be no let-up in the resolute efforts of the joint PNP-AFP [Philippine National Police-Armed Forces of the Philippines] task group in pursuing intensive and wide-ranging military and law enforcement operations to neutralize these lawless elements and thwart further threats to peace and security,” Palace Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said in a statement.
A military official said air assault, artillery shelling and ground-troop operations have been prepositioned to crush the Abu Sayyaf Group.
“If ever that is part of the ongoing operations, it is the call of the ground commanders,” said Col. Noel Detoyato, chief of the AFP’s Public Affairs Office.
He was referring to attack helicopters and 105mm howitzers that have been part of the military operations against the terrorist group.
Detoyato said the other hostages are alive based on reports.
“Our ground troops know that, and for their safety they are already included in the planning and execution. Their safety is already included in the planning and execution,” the official added.
The military operations are confined to a specific target in Sulu, said to be the stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf.
The military has been conducting operations against the bandits since September last year.
The AFP and the PNP said in a joint statement that there will be no let-up in their pursuit operations.
“The full force of the law will be used to bring these criminals to justice,” they added.
Vice President Jejomar Binay also condemned “in the strongest possible terms” the beheading of the Canadian.
“I also extend my deepest condolences and sympathies to the family of Mr. Ridsdel and the Canadian people. I share with them their sorrow and pain in this time of grief,” Binay said.
“This barbaric incident should also remind us that as we take decisive action against criminal and bandit groups, we should address the lingering problem of poverty, which has nurtured unrest, disunity and criminality, especially in Mindanao,” he noted.
Act of terrorism
Muslims leaders in Mindanao also condemned the Abu Sayyaf.
Governor Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao said Ridsdel’s beheading “is an act against humanity.”
“As a nation, we have to rise against this horrendous act of terrorism. Our faith and our humanity demand that we collectively and strongly condemn this act of terrorism,” Hataman added.
Sulu Vice Governor Abdusakur Tan cited the need for law enforcement agencies to fully address the issue of kidnapping.
Tan said law enforcers should not stop pursuing the bandits until the terrorist group has been neutralized.
WITH MICHAEL JOE T. DELIZO AND JULMUNIR I. JANNARAL