John Ridsdel, a Canadian who was among the group of foreigners taken hostage by Abu Sayyaf gunmen from the Holiday Oceanview resort on Samal Island in southern Philippines on September 21 last year, is dead.
Ridsdel’s severed head was found in the town of Jolo in Sulu province on April 25.
The execution of Ridsdel was met with widespread condemnation.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he is “outraged”.
“Canada condemns without reservation the brutality of the hostage-takers, and this unnecessary death. This was an act of cold-blooded murder and responsibility rests squarely with the terrorist group who took him hostage,” Trudeau said in a statement.
“The Government of Canada is committed to working with the Government of Philippines and international partners to pursue those responsible for this heinous act and bring them to justice,” he also said.
The Prime Minister added: “On behalf of the Government of Canada and all Canadians, I would like to express my deepest condolences to the family and friends of Mr. Ridsdel. They have endured a terrible ordeal, and this is a devastating moment for all of them. Our thoughts are with them as they come to terms with this loss, and I would ask that the media respect their privacy at this difficult time.
“The Government of Canada’s first priority is the safety and security of its citizens. The Government of Canada will not comment or release any information which may compromise ongoing efforts or endanger the safety of the remaining hostages.”
Witnesses said an unidentified man was seen leaving behind a black plastic bag in front of the Jolo municipal hall during a power outage.
Residents discovered the severed head inside the bag after electricity returned. They immediately reported it to the military, who brought the remains to the Philippine Marines’ Camp Teodolfo in Jolo.
The Army received intelligence that Abu Sayyaf had carried out an execution outside Patikul town on Jolo island.
A video posted on social media showed the captives, with machetes held to their necks, asking their families and government to pay a ransom of P300 million ($6.51 million) each or they would face execution by 3 p.m. on April 25.
The captives were two Canadian men, a Norwegian man and a Filipino woman.
The captives are believed to be held in the jungle on Jolo island, a stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf group, which is known for bombings, beheadings and kidnappings.
The video was the fourth such appeal released by the militants. In their third clip last month, they set an April 8 deadline but no ransom was specified.
Abu Sayyaf militants are holding other foreigners, including one from the Netherlands, one from Japan, four Malaysians and 10 Indonesian tugboat crew.
Canadian Senator Tobias C. Enverga Jr. reacted with horror upon learning of the execution of Ridsdel.
“I am shocked and outraged by the senseless loss of a Canadian life at the hands of extremist militants,” said Enverga in a statement. “I am hopeful that Canada will remain steadfast in providing humanitarian assistance and security programs to the Philippines, and that the cowardly actions of a few individuals will not deter our commitment to one of our closest friends in South East Asia.”
“My deepest condolences go out to the family of Mr. Ridsdel,” said Senator Enverga. “Our thoughts and prayers are with you during this terrible time.”
The fate of the other three hostages—Canadian Robert Hall, Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad, and Filipino Marites Flor—remains unknown.
Rona Ambrose, Leader of the Official Opposition and interim Leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, said news of the execution is “shocking and saddening”.
“All Canadians held out hope that all the innocent civilians that have been taken hostage would be returned safely. We continue to hope for a resolution to this situation where all other hostages will return safely home to their families,” Ambrose said.
Ambrose added: “Incidents like this should remind all of us that the threat of terrorism remains very real. We must stand with our allies in solidarity against terrorism, which remains the greatest challenge that the world faces today.
“On behalf of the Official Opposition, I extend my deepest sympathies to Mr. Ridsdel’s family and loved ones. We cannot begin to understand the pain you are feeling today, and we pray that you find peace with one another as Canadians stand with you,” Ambrose said.