October 21, 2016

Abu Sayyaf group beheads another Canadian hostage

Manila, Philippines – The Abu Sayyaf group has beheaded another Canadian hostage held on a southern Philippine island after ransom demands apparently were not met.

Robert Hall was confirmed dead on Monday by a military source who spoke to Al Jazeera on condition of anonymity prior to the official announcment.

“Today Canadian kidnap victim identified as Robert Hall was beheaded by his abductor … the Abu Sayyaf group,” the military source said.

Abu Sayyaf spokesman were phoning local media on Monday noting the deadline for Hall’s ranson had passed at 3pm local time and he had been killed.

In late April, the severed head of Canadian hostage John Ridsdel, 68, was found on the streets of Samal Island in the southern Philippines.

Ridsdel was kidnapped last September along with Hall and Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad and Filipina Marites Flor, and the Abu Sayaaf had been demanding ransom for their release.

At the time, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau condemned Risdel’s killing calling it “an act of cold-blooded murder”.

It was unclear how much the group was demanding for Hall’s release. In April, the army said the al-Qaeda-linked organisation had threatened to behead a captive if $6.4m wasn’t paid for each one.

Abu Sayyaf is a small but highly active group known for beheading, kidnapping, bombing and extortion in the south of the country.

Abu Sayyaf, which is considered a “terrorist” organisation by Canada and other Western countries, emerged in the early 1990s as an offshoot of a separatist rebellion by minority Moro Muslims in the predominantly Roman Catholic nation’s south.

Kidnap for ransom operations have long been a lucrative business in the region but have escalated in recent years. Fourteen Indonesian hostages were recently released by the Abu Sayyaf after negotiations and ransoms were paid.

The abductions have also become more brazen and spread beyond the Abu Sayyaf heartland of Sulu province to Palawan and Davao provinces.

The Malaysian government has closed its border between Sabah state and the Philippines because of the recent spate of kidnappings of Malaysian citizens.

Joint naval border patrols by the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia forces are being planned to halt kidnappings and piracy in the Sulu and Celebes seas.

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