The pressure is on for Canadian and Philippine officials to apprehend those responsible for the beheading of a Canadian man Monday.
“Canada is determined to bring these terrorist criminals to justice and we are working with international allies, specifically the Philippines to ensure that these terrorists, these criminals will be brought to justice,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday.
But Trudeau adamantly defended Canada’s policy of not paying ransoms, saying it would put the lives of millions of Canadians travelling and working abroad every year in danger.
The Philippine military came under increased scrutiny Tuesday to rescue more than 20 foreign hostages, including Canadian Robert Hall, after their Muslim extremist captors beheaded John Ridsdel, who had been held captive for seven months.
The Philippine military and police said Tuesday “there will be no let up” in the effort to combat the militants and find the hostages, even though they have had little success so far in safely securing their freedom. Many hostages were believed to have been released after huge ransoms were paid.
“The full force of the law will be used to bring these criminals to justice,” they said in a joint statement.
On Monday, Trudeau announced Ridsdel had been beheaded by Abu Sayyaf militants after a ransom deadline had passed, calling it a “heinous act.”
“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.”
Risdel’s family released a statement late Monday 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 us 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.”
About 2,000 military personnel, backed by Huey and MG520 rocket-firing helicopters and artillery, are involved in the manhunt for the militants, who are believed to be hiding in Sulu’s mountainous Patikul town, military officials said.
While under pressure to produce results, government troops have been ordered to carry out assaults without endangering the remaining hostages, including the use of airstrikes and artillery fire, a combat officer told The Associated Press by cellphone from Sulu. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to reporters.
According to Reuters, the Philippine army found a severed head on a remote island, some five hours after the Monday’s ransom deadline set by militants of the Abu Sayyaf terror group.
Earlier, the Philippine army launched a rescue mission to free the Canadians, 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.
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.
On Tuesday, Ridsdel was remembered by long-time friend and former Liberal MP Bob Rae.
“Above all as a person he was such an extraordinary person who knew how to connect with others, he had a great sense of curiosity and a great sense of adventure,” Rae told Global News.
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.
With files from Global News reporters Nick Logan, Kevin Nielsen and Tania Kohut. The Associated Press contributed to this report.