Philippines checking if body is Ridsdel

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MANILA, Philippines – Philippine forensic experts are checking if a headless Caucasian man’s body found by villagers in a southern province is that of a Canadian hostage beheaded by Muslim extremists.

Military officials said Wednesday the body was found beside a dry creek in a mountain near Talipao town in Sulu province, where Abu Sayyaf militants beheaded John Ridsdel of Calgary after failing to get a huge ransom. Police later recovered Ridsdel’s head in Sulu’s Jolo town.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has condemned the brutal killing of Ridsdel, 68, who was kidnapped with fellow Canadian Robert Hall, a Norwegian and a Filipino woman from a marina on southern Samal island in September.

Thousands of troops are scouring Sulu’s vast jungle for the militants, who are holding about 22 other foreign hostages.

Speaking in Alberta Tuesday at the end of a cabinet retreat, Trudeau took an uncompromising stance against terrorist kidnappers, vowing that Canada will never pay ransom for the release of hostages.

He also promised to press other countries to adopt the same unyielding approach.

Amid speculation about whether the government might pay ransom to release Hall and Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad, whom a government official confirmed is a permanent resident of Canada, Trudeau said he wanted “to make one thing perfectly, crystal clear.”

“Canada does not and will not pay ransom to terrorists, directly or indirectly,” he said.

Paying ransom is “a significant source of funds for terrorist organizations that then allow them to continue to perpetrate deadly acts of violence against innocents around the world,” Trudeau said.

But more importantly, he said it would encourage terrorists to kidnap more Canadians.

“Paying ransom for Canadians would endanger the lives of every single one of the millions of Canadians who live work and travel around the world every single year.”

Asked whether and to what extent the Canadian government was involved in high-level negotiations to effect Ridsdel’s release, Trudeau said he’d “seen a number of those media reports,” which he dismissed as “wrong” and “false.”

— with files from The Associated Press