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Philippines Confirms Killing of Robert Hall, Canadian Hostage, by Abu Sayyaf

Philippine officials confirmed on Tuesday that a Canadian man held captive by the militant group Abu Sayyaf had been decapitated, the second hostage from Canada killed in the war-torn southern Philippines this year.

The man, Robert Hall, was abducted in September with three other people — one of dozens of such abductions carried out in the last few decades by Abu Sayyaf, an organization of several hundred fighters that has functioned as a hostage-for-ransom gang. The group has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.

The severed head of a man believed to be Mr. Hall was found in a plastic bag near a Roman Catholic church on the southern Philippine island of Jolo on Monday night, the Philippine police said on Tuesday.

A one-minute, 35-second video of Mr. Hall's beheading was released on Tuesday, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors extremist activity online. The video shows a masked man quoting the Quran while an unmasked man pushes Mr. Hall's head to the ground and decapitates him.

"We strongly condemn the brutal and senseless murder of Mr. Robert Hall, a Canadian citizen, after being held captive by the Abu Sayyaf group in Sulu for the past nine months," Sonny Coloma, a spokesman for President Benigno S. Aquino III, said on Tuesday. "We extend our deepest sympathy and condolences to his bereaved family."

"We truly regret that our people's cherished tradition of extending gracious hospitality toward foreign nationals has been marred by a small band of criminals," Mr. Coloma added.

Mr. Hall, a former welder who was sailing around the Pacific, was abducted in September with his companion, Marites Flor, a Philippine citizen, from a resort on Samal Island, in the country's south. Also abducted from the resort at the time were John Ridsdel, a Canadian mining executive, and Kjartan Sekkingstad, a Norwegian hotel manager. In April, Mr. Ridsdel was beheaded after ransom demands were not met. Ms. Flor and Mr. Sekkingstad are thought to be alive.

Officially, the Canadian and Philippine governments do not pay ransom, but Philippine officials said last week that family members of those who had been abducted were negotiating to pay about $6.5 million each for the release of Mr. Hall and Mr. Sekkingstad. Abu Sayyaf militants had said they would behead Mr. Hall on Monday afternoon if the ransom was not paid.

In March, Abu Sayyaf abducted 10 sailors from Indonesia, and in April the group seized four sailors from Malaysia. The Indonesians were released in May, and the Malaysians in June. According to local news reports, both groups paid ransoms, but the Philippine government has not confirmed this.

A Philippine police official said during a news briefing in Manila on Tuesday that only the head believed to be Mr. Hall's had been found, and that it had been brought to Manila for DNA testing. The Philippine military is looking for Mr. Hall's body to help with identification and to be able to return his remains to Canada.

In Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau vowed on Monday to find those responsible for killing Mr. Hall and Mr. Ridsdel.

"We are more committed than ever to working with the government of the Philippines and international partners to pursue those responsible for these heinous acts and bring them to justice, however long it takes," Mr. Trudeau said.

He reiterated Canada's policy of not paying for the release of hostages, "as doing so would endanger the lives of more Canadians."

Both Mr. Ridsdel and Mr. Hall lived in Calgary, Alberta, for some time.

Mr. Ridsdel was a former journalist and oil industry executive with a large circle of friends that included many prominent Canadians.

Mr. Hall generally worked as a welder and acted in community theater productions, sometimes in starring roles, according to several Canadian accounts. A statement from his family to Maclean's magazine gave his year of birth as 1949. Before sailing across the Pacific in 2014, Mr. Hall was said to have been living in at least two communities in British Columbia.

[Source: By Floyd Whaley and Ian Austen, International New York Times, Manila, 14Jun16]

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small logoThis document has been published on 16Jun16 by the Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.