OTTAWA—Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday it was likely that a Canadian kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf bandits nearly nine months ago has been killed.
“It is with deep sadness that I have reason to believe that a Canadian citizen, Robert Hall, held hostage in the Philippines since Sept. 21, 2015, has been killed by his captors,” Trudeau said in a statement.
Members of the notorious kidnap-for-ransom Abu Sayyaf gang said they would murder Hall if they did not receive P300-million ransom by Monday.
“While Canadian officials are working closely with authorities in the Philippines to formally confirm Mr. Hall’s death, we have compelling reason to believe that reports to this effect are, unfortunately, true,” Trudeau said.
“The vicious and brutal actions of the hostage-takers have led to a needless death. Canada holds the terrorist group who took him hostage fully responsible for this cold-blooded and senseless murder.”
Hall was among four people abducted in September last year from aboard yachts at a tourist resort in the city of Samal.
Another Canadian who was abducted at the same time, John Ridsdel, was beheaded in April after a similar ransom demand of P300 million was not paid.
Military officials on Monday could not confirm reports that Abu Sayyaf bandits had beheaded Hall.
“I cannot confirm or deny it. We don’t have reports yet coming from our units on the ground,” said Maj. Filemon Tan, spokesman for the Western Mindanao Command.
Earlier, the Abu Sayyaf said Hall and Kjartan Sekkingstad, a Norwegian, would be tortured if the victims’ relative did not communicate by the deadline they set at 3 p.m. Monday.
Just recently, the Abu Sayyaf set a June 13 deadline for relatives of Hall and Sekkingstad to deliver P300 million each for their safe release.
Hall, Sekkingstad and Ridsdel together with Hall’s Filipino girlfriend Marites Flor were abducted by armed men in August 2015 at the Ocean View Samal Resort in the city of Samal. The hostages were taken to Sulu.
Up to eight battalions or roughly 5,400 soldiers were deployed in Sulu to go after some 200 Abu Sayyaf bandits.
The Palace said Monday the government was continuing operations for the safe release of the hostages. ‘‘Government has not wavered in its determination to deal with the kidnap-for-ransom problem,” said Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr., in a statement.
“Our focused military and law enforcement operations continue without let up with the objective of rescuing the hostages and holding their captors accountable for all their crimes,” Coloma also said.
As of 6 p.m., the Palace was unable to verify reports of Hall’s death.
But Trade and Industry Secretary Adrian Cristobal said President Benigno Aquino III skipped a speaking engagement in the Mall of Asia “due to a sudden, extreme and urgent situation.”
He did not offer any details, however.
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