Beheading of Canadian fuels “iron fist” approach towards extremists in Philippines

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John Ridsdel kidnapping
John Ridsdel (right, †) and his fellow hostages

The beheading of a Canadian hostage by Muslim extremists of Abu Sayyaf group gives presidential frontrunner Rodrigo Duterte a particular special position to underline his “no compromise” approach to violent crimes and extremism in the country, observers say.

John Ridsdel was beheaded on April 25 by ISIS-sympathisers Abu Sayyaf which took him hostage along with three others in September last year. Ridsdel, 68, a former mining executive, together with a fellow Canadian tourist, a Norwegian resort manager and his Filipino spouse, were kidnapped from yachts at a marina off the coast of the major southern city of Davao.

Six weeks after the abduction, Abu Sayyaf gunmen released a video on social media of their hostages held in a jungle setting, demanding $27 million each for the safe release of the three foreigners. In the most recent video, Ridsdel said he would be killed on April 25 if a ransom of $8.3 million was not paid.

Just shortly after the ransom deadline on 3pm local time passed, police in the Philippines said two people on a motorbike dropped a severed head in a plastic bag near city hall on Jolo, a mostly lawless island about 1,000 kilometers south of Manila in the Sulu archipelago that is one of the main strongholds of Abu Sayyaf.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau strongly condemned the execution, calling it “an act of cold-blooded murder.”

“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.

“The government of Canada is committed to working with the government of the Philippines and international partners to pursue those responsible for this heinous act,” he added.

However, Trudeau declined to respond when asked whether the Canadian government had tried to negotiate with the captors or pay a ransom, or whether it was trying to secure the release of the other Canadian being held, Robert Hall.

The beheading and ongoing kidnappings in the Philippines’ southern crisis region is a huge backlash for Mindanao peace negotiations held by the government of incumbent president Benigno Aquino, who in a first reaction ordered troops to intensify action against the militants.

But in the light of the breakdown of the peace process, presidential candidate Duterte is seen to be in a strong position to stage himself as one who could put the decade-old conflict to an end. He has presented himself as the only candidate who “truly understands the complexity” of the Mindanao insurgency and related rebel group activity, vowing to bring the different parties together to negotiate an end to the conflict once and for all, if elected president.

As mayor of Davao City, Duterte made his name nationally for his no-nonsense approach to crime. He advocates a hardline approach to criminals and claims to have drastically reduced Davao’s previously high rates of violent crime under his leadership through alleged extrajudicial killings by a well-coordinated group of vigilantes.

But some observers believe that his negotiating powers with highly ideological extremist groups such as Abu Sayyaf are limited. While he, at request of Canadian and Norwegian authorities, appealed to the kidnappers not to harm their hostages and also claimed he was willing to “go to Sulu to talk to the kidnappers,” he in fact didn’t go and his interventions had no effect.

Meanwhile, Alih Aiyub, secretary general of the National Ulama Conference of the Philippines, a Muslim umbrella group, said the “continuing barbaric acts of Ab Sayyaf” were “appalling.”

“We, the Ulama Conference of the Philippines, strongly condemn this barbaric and satanic act of the beheading of the Canadian hostage by Abu Sayyaf Group, which we consider one of the terrorist groups,” Aiyub said.

“And we pray for the safety of the remaining hostages and call upon the authorities to exert efforts in saving them and to punish these terrorists,” he added.

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Reading Time: 3 minutes

John Ridsdel (right, †) and his fellow hostages

The beheading of a Canadian hostage by Muslim extremists of Abu Sayyaf group gives presidential frontrunner Rodrigo Duterte a particular special position to underline his “no compromise” approach to violent crimes and extremism in the country, observers say.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

John Ridsdel kidnapping
John Ridsdel (right, †) and his fellow hostages

The beheading of a Canadian hostage by Muslim extremists of Abu Sayyaf group gives presidential frontrunner Rodrigo Duterte a particular special position to underline his “no compromise” approach to violent crimes and extremism in the country, observers say.

John Ridsdel was beheaded on April 25 by ISIS-sympathisers Abu Sayyaf which took him hostage along with three others in September last year. Ridsdel, 68, a former mining executive, together with a fellow Canadian tourist, a Norwegian resort manager and his Filipino spouse, were kidnapped from yachts at a marina off the coast of the major southern city of Davao.

Six weeks after the abduction, Abu Sayyaf gunmen released a video on social media of their hostages held in a jungle setting, demanding $27 million each for the safe release of the three foreigners. In the most recent video, Ridsdel said he would be killed on April 25 if a ransom of $8.3 million was not paid.

Just shortly after the ransom deadline on 3pm local time passed, police in the Philippines said two people on a motorbike dropped a severed head in a plastic bag near city hall on Jolo, a mostly lawless island about 1,000 kilometers south of Manila in the Sulu archipelago that is one of the main strongholds of Abu Sayyaf.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau strongly condemned the execution, calling it “an act of cold-blooded murder.”

“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.

“The government of Canada is committed to working with the government of the Philippines and international partners to pursue those responsible for this heinous act,” he added.

However, Trudeau declined to respond when asked whether the Canadian government had tried to negotiate with the captors or pay a ransom, or whether it was trying to secure the release of the other Canadian being held, Robert Hall.

The beheading and ongoing kidnappings in the Philippines’ southern crisis region is a huge backlash for Mindanao peace negotiations held by the government of incumbent president Benigno Aquino, who in a first reaction ordered troops to intensify action against the militants.

But in the light of the breakdown of the peace process, presidential candidate Duterte is seen to be in a strong position to stage himself as one who could put the decade-old conflict to an end. He has presented himself as the only candidate who “truly understands the complexity” of the Mindanao insurgency and related rebel group activity, vowing to bring the different parties together to negotiate an end to the conflict once and for all, if elected president.

As mayor of Davao City, Duterte made his name nationally for his no-nonsense approach to crime. He advocates a hardline approach to criminals and claims to have drastically reduced Davao’s previously high rates of violent crime under his leadership through alleged extrajudicial killings by a well-coordinated group of vigilantes.

But some observers believe that his negotiating powers with highly ideological extremist groups such as Abu Sayyaf are limited. While he, at request of Canadian and Norwegian authorities, appealed to the kidnappers not to harm their hostages and also claimed he was willing to “go to Sulu to talk to the kidnappers,” he in fact didn’t go and his interventions had no effect.

Meanwhile, Alih Aiyub, secretary general of the National Ulama Conference of the Philippines, a Muslim umbrella group, said the “continuing barbaric acts of Ab Sayyaf” were “appalling.”

“We, the Ulama Conference of the Philippines, strongly condemn this barbaric and satanic act of the beheading of the Canadian hostage by Abu Sayyaf Group, which we consider one of the terrorist groups,” Aiyub said.

“And we pray for the safety of the remaining hostages and call upon the authorities to exert efforts in saving them and to punish these terrorists,” he added.

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