Canadian hostage of Filipino militants probably killed – Justin Trudeau
Justin Trudeau, Canada’s prime minister, has said he had “every reason to believe” that a second Canadian man being held by militants in the Philippines has been killed.
“It is with deep sadness and anger that I can report we have reason to believe that a Canadian citizen, Robert Hall – held hostage in the Philippines since September 21, 2015 – has been killed by his captors,” Trudeau told reporters. Hall was taken captive by Abu Sayyaf militants with three other people in an upscale resort on Samal island in the Philippines.
Known for kidnappings, beheadings and extortion, the group had demanded a payment of C$16.6m for the release of Hall as well as Filipina Maritess Flor and Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad, who is also a permanent resident of Canada. Reports of Hall’s death began to emerge just minutes after the ransom deadline had passed.
Trudeau said he had spoken to Benigno Aquino, the president of the Philippines, this morning and that Canada was in close contact with authorities in the Philippines to confirm reports of Hall’s death. “We have every reason to believe that the reports are unfortunately true,” he said. “Canada holds the terrorist group who took Mr Hall hostage fully responsible for this cold-blooded and senseless murder.”
Police in the Philippines said on Monday that they had found a severed head and were examining whether it belonged to Hall, the Associated Press reported.
In April, the same group beheaded Canadian John Ridsdel, a former mining executive, after their demand for C$6.3m in ransom was ignored.
At the time, Trudeau condemned Ridsdel’s killing as an act of “cold-blooded murder” but stated firmly that Canada would not pay ransoms to terrorists, whether directly or indirectly. Ransom payments, he argued, simply fund terrorism and criminal activity, while also setting a dangerous precedent.
Shortly after, a video circulated by the Site Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadi websites, showed Hall, Flor and Sekkingstad – who were abducted with Ridsdel from a yacht marina – pleading for help from the Canadian and Philippines governments.
“To the Canadian government, I’ve been told to tell you to meet the demand. I don’t know what you’re doing, but you’re not doing anything for us,” Hall told the camera. “If the demands are not met, we will be executed like our friend John was,” added Sekkingstad.
On Monday, Trudeau reiterated his strong stance against ransom payments. “Canada cannot and will not pay ransoms to terrorists,” he said. “We will not turn the Maple Leaf, worn with pride by over three million Canadians abroad, into targets.”
Local officials in the Philippines told Canadian newspaper the Globe and Mail that the Hall family had attempted to negotiate with Abu Sayyaf, offering to pay some C$1.4m for his release. The offer was rejected by the militants.
Trudeau expressed his condolence to the friends and family of Hall, who was from Calgary. “This is a grievous loss for them and their country mourns with them,” he said. His government would continue working with authorities in the Philippines to pursue those responsible and bring them to justice, he said.
The condition of the two other hostages remains unknown. Several other foreigners from countries including the Netherlands, Japan, Malaysia and Indonesia are also being held hostage by Abu Sayyaf, an extremist group that emerged from the decades-long Muslim separatist rebellion in southern Philippines.
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