OTTAWA: Canada will not pay ransoms for the release of its citizens held hostage overseas, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila) after the gruesome killing of a Canadian in the Philippines.
“Canada does not and will not pay ransom to terrorists, directly or indirectly,” Trudeau insisted, vowing instead to hunt down and prosecute hostage-takers.
His comments come after Trudeau delivered the grim news on Monday that John Ridsdel had been killed by the Abu Sayyaf militant group.
Efforts, however, were continuing to try to secure the release of three others, including another Canadian, he said.
In decrying ransom payouts, Trudeau explained that such payouts help support criminal or terrorist activities, and “endanger the lives of every single one of the millions of Canadians who live, work and travel around the globe” as they could become targets for abduction.
He said he and British Prime Minister David Cameron agreed in a telephone conversation earlier to press allies on the issue.
“We agreed that it is something that we are going to make sure that we do bring up with our friends and allies around the world as we come to grips with the fact that the world is a dangerous place,” Trudeau added.
“We need to make sure that terrorists understand that they cannot continue to fund their crimes and their violence from taking innocents hostage,” he said.
Ridsdel, fellow Canadian tourist Robert Hall, Hall’s girlfriend Filipina Marites Flor, and Norwegian resort manager Kjartan Sekkingstad were kidnapped seven months ago from yachts at a marina near the major city of Davao.
In a recent video, Ridsdel, a retiree in his late 60s, said his captors would kill him on April 25 if a ransom of $6.4 million was not paid.
Hours after the deadline passed, police in the Philippines said two people on a motorbike dropped a head in a plastic bag near the municipal hall in Jolo, capital of the southern Mindanao province of Sulu.
The body of Ridsdel was recovered Wednesday as security forces intensified their operation against the Abu Sayyaf.
Reports reaching Camp Aguinaldo, headquarters of the Philippines military, said a municipal councilor identified as Abejari Sahemari reported that at about 10 a.m. Wednesday, a “Caucasian-looking” male headless body was found buried at the vicinity of Sitio Tibangaw, Barangay Gata, Talipao.
Members of the Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (PNP-SAF), the local municipal police station and Scene of the Crime Operatives (SOCO) found the body near a dried creek in the mountainous area of Sitio Tibangaw.
“The cadaver was dumped in the creek by the perpetrators believed to be [members of the]ASG [Abu Sayyaf Group]. There was no indication that the victim was beheaded in the area due to the absence of blood stains in the scene,” the military report said.
The body, according to the report, is in custody of the SOCO for examination. It will be turned over to the Marine Battalion Landing Team 1 for airlifting to Zamboanga.
Ridsdel, a former executive of international miner TVI Resource Development in Zamboanga del Norte province, was beheaded in the hinterlands of Patikul after his family and the Canadian government failed to deliver P300 million in ransom demanded by the Abu Sayyaf.
The notorious group is still holding nearly two dozen foreign hostages–14 of them Indonesian seamen kidnapped at sea in Sabah in Malaysia and in Tawi-Tawi, one of five provinces under the restive Muslim autonomous region in Mindanao.
Ridsdel was kidnapped by 10 gunmen from the resort island of Samal in Davao del Norte province in September 21 last year.
The military’s Western Mindanao Command under General Mayoralgo dela Cruz did not give any details of ongoing operations against the Abu Sayyaf but President Benigno Aquino 3rd ordered a massive assault on the jihadist group also blamed for a spate of terrorism there.
An army brigadier in Sulu, Alan Arrojado, who was earlier axed from his post as commander of the anti-terror task group in the province for failing to stop the Abu Sayyaf kidnappings, has resigned as chief of the 501st Infantry Brigade.
He was replaced by Col. Jose Faustino.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines did not say if it would also sack dela Cruz, who is also in charge of military operations against the Abu Sayyaf in nearby Basilan province in the Muslim autonomous region, where 18 soldiers had been brutally killed and five dozens more wounded in fierce clashes in Tipo-Tipo town just this month.