Calgary Herald


Canadian officials confirmed that former Calgarian John Ridsdel, shown above on a motorcycle, was executed by Islamist terrorists based on the island of Jolo in the southern Philippine­s.

- MATTHEW FISHER in Manila AND TRISTIN HOPPER in Kananaskis, Alta.

Hope flickered briefly early Monday without a word from Abu Sayyaf as the deadline for the execution of the militants’ four hostages came and went.

The Islamist terrorists, based on the island of Jolo in the southern Philippine­s, had threatened to kill Canadians John Ridsdel and Robert Hall, Hall’s Filipino girlfriend Marites Flor, and Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingsta­d.

Then police in Jolo City, the provincial capital, made a grisly find.

A plastic bag dumped on the street was found to contain the head of a Caucasian man, later identified as Ridsdel, 68. The fate of his three companions was not known.

“We have received informatio­n that a headless body was found at 8:30 p.m. of a Caucasian man in Jolo City, Jolo Island,” said Dick Gordon, chairman of the Philippine Red Cross, describing the gruesome discovery.

“It appears to have been decapitate­d.”

“A motorcycle driver threw a plastic bag in the road in front of where there were five children playing at 7:30 p.m. But there was a brown-out (power failure). When the lights went back on it was seen that there was blood on the plastic bag and police were called.”

In Kananaskis, Alta., Prime Minister Justin Trudeau described it as a “coldbloode­d murder” by the militants.

Trudeau said Canada would work with the Philippine government and internatio­nal partners to bring those responsibl­e to justice.

He also expressed his “deepest condolence­s” to the family and friends of Ridsdel, a semi-retired mining executive who began his career as a journalist in Regina and Calgary.

The hostages’ ordeal started on Monday, Sept. 21, 2015. At dead of night, about 10 men armed with M16 assault rifles attacked the isolated Holiday Ocean View marina on the resort island of Samal.

According to reports, they descended on the outermost yacht of each of the two docks, pulling out two couples. Hall and Flor, and an American, Steven Tripp and his Japanese wife Kazuko.

Their screams brought other holidaymak­ers running. In the melee, the Tripps managed to fight off the gunmen and escape. But Ridsdel and Sekkingsta­d, the resort’s manager, were seized in their stead.

The four captives were taken 500 kilometres by boat to Jolo, where the militants are based.

Last week, a video surfaced in which they pleaded for their lives.

With a machete pressed against his neck, men with assault weapons standing behind him and looking haggard and drawn, Ridsdel said this was his captors’ “final absolute warning.”

They would be beheaded at 3 a.m. EDT on Monday unless a ransom of nearly 300 million pesos ($8.1 million) was paid.

His message was reinforced by one of the masked captors, who said the “deadline of warning is over,” referring to a previous deadline that had not been met.

“Still, you procrastin­ate. So now this is already an ultimatum. Once you don’t meet the demand, we will certainly behead one amongst this four.”

Earlier Monday, hope was raised that the captives might be rescued.

In a news release, the office of Philippine President Benigno Aquino’s spokesman said “maximum efforts” were being exerted by a joint military/police task force to rescue the four hostages. This included “intensifie­d” operations in recent weeks against an estimated 400 Abu Sayyaf members and supporters on the islands of Basilan and Jolo.

The Philippine­s follows a no-ransom policy and has asked that Canada not pay the kidnappers. Canada’s long-standing official policy is not to pay such ransoms, but has likely found low-key ways to do so in Africa and the Middle East.

“I am angry,” the Red Cross’s Gordon said. “We are supposed to be neutral but this has been happening with impunity. The government has to do something to stop this. It has been going on for too long.

“Abu Sayyaf had tried to ask me several months ago to negotiate. I refused to do so, but I did speak with all the hostages to confirm that they were still alive.”

The militants are believed to be holding several other hostages from eight countries, including the Netherland­s, Japan, Malaysia and Indonesia.

The abductions highlighte­d the long-running security problems hounding the southern Philippine­s, a resource-rich region that suffers from poverty, lawlessnes­s and decades-long Muslim and communist insurgenci­es.

Abu Sayyaf emerged in the early 1990s as an offshoot of a separatist rebellion by minority Muslims in the predominan­tly Roman Catholic nation’s south.

The group has relied on extortion and huge ransoms earned from kidnapping­s of mostly Western tourists and missionari­es to survive for more than two decades.

It had claimed an alliance with al-Qaida, but recently publicly proclaimed allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

Earlier this month, Ashton Carter, the U.S. secretary of defence, said ISIL could help inspire increased attacks by Abu Sayyaf militants, such as a recent attack on a Philippine military base that killed at least 18 troops.

 ?? YOUTUBE ?? Robert Hall, left, and John Ridsdel, as seen in a video released after they were abducted Sept. 21 in the Philippine­s. A plastic bag containing Ridsdel’s head was found Monday.
YOUTUBE Robert Hall, left, and John Ridsdel, as seen in a video released after they were abducted Sept. 21 in the Philippine­s. A plastic bag containing Ridsdel’s head was found Monday.

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