Extremists have beheaded one of two Canadian men who have been held hostage in the Philippines after a ransom deadline passed.
The military of the Philippines has now come under increased pressure Tuesday to rescue more than 20 foreign hostages after their captors beheaded 68-year-old John Ridsdel of Calgary.
Philippine security officials say “there will be no letup” in the effort to combat the militants and find all hostages.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Monday that Ridsdel was executed by Abu Sayyaf militants after being held hostage for six months.
Risdel’s family released a statement saying they were “devastated” by the news of his death.
“Our family is devastated at loss of our father and brother John Ridsdel whose life was tragically cut short by this senseless act of violence despite use doing everything within our power to bring him home,” the statement read.
“He was loved by all his friends and adored by his daughters, sister, and extended family. He will be sorely missed in the days to come.”
The prime minister condemned the act, placing blame on Abu Sayyaf militants.
“Canada condemns without reservation the brutality of the hostage takers in this unnecessary death,” Trudeau said.
“This was an act of cold-blooded murder and responsibility rests squarely with the terrorist group who took him hostage.”
Calling it a “heinous act,” the prime minister said the government is working with the Philippines and international partners to bring the hostage-takers to justice.
“On behalf of the Government of Canada and all Canadians, I would like to express my deepest condolences to the family and friends of Mr. Ridsdel,” Trudeau said.
“They have endured a terrible ordeal and this is a devastating moment for all of them.”
According to Reuters, the Philippine army found a severed head on a remote island, some five hours after the ransom deadline set by militants of the Abu Sayyaf terror group.
Rona Ambrose, Interim Leader of the Conservative Party, called the execution of Ridsdel at the hands of terrorists “shocking and saddening.”
“All Canadians held out hope that all the innocent civilians that have been taken hostage would be returned safely,” Ambrose said in a statement.
“We continue to hope for a resolution to this situation where all other hostages will return safely home to their families. Incidents like this should remind all of us that the threat of terrorism remains very real. We must stand with our allies in solidarity against terrorism, which remains the greatest challenge that the world faces today.”
Earlier on Monday the Associated Press reported the Philippine army launched a rescue mission to free the Canadians, Robert Hall and Ridsdel, a Norwegian man and a Filipino woman, who were kidnapped at gunpoint from a marina on southern Samal Island last September.
The kidnappers had reportedly demanded 300 million pesos ($8.1 million) for each of the foreigners, and set a deadline of Monday at 3 p.m. local time to deliver the ransom or the militants would behead one of their captives.
Earlier on Monday, Global Affairs Canada said it would not comment on the rescue mission led by Philippines military.
“The Government of Canada will not comment or release any information which may compromise ongoing efforts or endanger the safety of Canadian citizens,” spokesperson Rachna Mishra said in an email statement.
“The Government of Canada’s first priority is the safety and security of its citizens.”
Reuters reported residents found a severed head in the centre of Jolo town, and Tan said two men on a motorcycle were seen dropping a plastic bag containing the head. The military spokesperson also said the army received intelligence that Abu Sayyaf had carried out an execution.
The terror group had previously demanded more than $100 million in ransom to release the four captives.
In a video posted online in November, Hall – under duress – said he was being held for “one billion pesos” or C$28 million. It’s the same demand for each of the other hostages.
Before entering into the mining industry, Ridsdel worked for the CBC in Calgary as well as the Calgary Herald in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
As a business reporter with the Herald, he spent a few years alongside Ron Nowell.
“I was quite shocked when I heard about him being taken hostage,” Nowell said.
Nowell, who retired from the paper in 2010, said Ridsdel was an “excellent reporter” and that he was “very sad to hear the news this morning of his demise.”
Ridsdel left the paper to take a job with Petro-Canada, where he worked for several years before eventually becoming an executive with Calgary-based mining company TVI Pacific.
TVI Pacific released a statement to Global News about their former senior vice president, chief operating officer Monday.
“The TVI team is completely devastated to learn of John’s passing,” the statement read.
“We are in profound shock, disbelief and sorrow to have lost our former colleague and close friend. John was a remarkable man and his gregariousness, warmth and wit will be sorely missed. Our thoughts and deepest sympathies are with his family at this heartbreaking time.”
With files from Adam Frisk and Kevin Nielsen (Global News)