MANILA – John Ridsdel, a Canadian held hostage by Abu Sayyaf bandits in the Philippines, “has been killed at the hands of his captors,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a statement Monday.
“This was an act of cold-blooded murder and responsibility rests squarely with the terrorist group who took him hostage,” Trudeau said, emphasizing that Canada condemns the “brutality” of this “unnecessary death.”
Ridsdel had been held hostage with three others since September of last year. Last month Abu Sayyaf released a video that appeared to show Ridsdel and the other captives pleading for their lives, as armed masked men stood behind them.
One of the masked men in the video had threatened to “do something terrible against these captives” if the captors’ demands — which included ransom — were not met.
On Monday, Trudeau expressed his “deepest condolences” to the family and friends of Ridsdel.
Trudeau said Canada would not comment or release any information that could compromise the other hostages’ safety or ongoing efforts to release them.
Ridsdel was among four people abducted September 21 at the Oceanview Resort on Samal Island, which lies off the coast of the major southern island of Mindanao, Philippine officials said.
This part of the southern Philippines is home to Abu Sayyaf, a group that’s been linked to al Qaeda. The separatist group has at times preyed on foreigners in recent years, taking them hostage to further its aims.
In addition to Ridsdel, Norwegian national Kjartan Sekkingstad, Canadian national Robert Hall and Filipina Marites Flor were also taken hostage, according to officials.
In a statement, Norwegian Foreign Minister Borge Brende said Norway would “continue our ongoing efforts to find a solution for the remaining hostages.”
“There will be no let up in the determined efforts … to neutralize these lawless elements and thwart further threats to peace and security,” the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police said in a joint statement.
“The full force of the law will be used to bring these criminals to justice.”
A few weeks after the September abduction, video came out showing four hostages surrounded by masked, heavily armed militants and banners that appeared to be ISIS flags, or jihadist flags that are very similar in appearance to the infamous black-and-white standard.
Last month, the Philippine government said it would maintain its no-ransom policy and let its military handle the crisis, state media reported.
The situation has drawn growing political attention in the country. Earlier this month, one lawmaker called for Abu Sayyaf to be a topic in the country’s next presidential debate.
Sen. Ralph Recto decried what he called the group’s “kidnapping spree,” noting that there were more than a dozen foreign hostages held captive by the militants.
“The next presidential debate should include a question on how to end Abu Sayyaf’s terrorism and stop their expansion as an ISIS franchisee. … Before their hostages become a United Nations of kidnap victims, they must be stopped,” he said in a statement.
Ridsdel’s family said Monday they had done everything they could to bring him home, Canada’s CTV network reported.
“Our family is devastated at the loss of our father and brother John Ridsdel whose life was cut tragically short by this senseless act of violence despite us doing everything within our power to bring him home,” the family said.
Ridsdel had worked as a reporter for The Calgary Herald and CBC and eventually retired from TVI Pacific to travel the world, according to CTV.
“John was a kind and gregarious person who touched everyone he knew with his enthusiasm and generosity,” his family said. “He loved life and lived it to the fullest with his family and friends at the center. He was loved by all his friends and adored by his daughters, sister and extended family.”
Former Canadian Member of Parliament Bob Rae, a longtime friend of Ridsdel, told CNN that “lots of effort” was made by the families to respond to ransom demands, but the figures asked for were too high.
“The numbers being bandied about were in the millions and millions of dollars and none of the families involved had that kind of cash.” – MyNewsHub/CNN