OTTAWA – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he has “reason to believe” that a Canadian man who was being held hostage by a militant group in the Philippines has been executed.
He says Canadian officials are working closely with authorities in the Philippines to formally confirm Robert Hall’s death at the hands of extremist group Abu Sayyaf, but has compelling reason to believe that published reports of the Calgary man’s demise are true.
“It is with deep sadness that I have reason to believe that a Canadian citizen, Robert Hall, held hostage in the Philippines since September 21, 2015, has been killed by his captors,” Trudeau said Monday in a statement.
Hall, fellow Canadian John Ridsdel, Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad and Philippines national Marites Flor were snatched from a marina by Abu Sayyaf last September.
The militants executed Ridsdel in April. The Washington-based SITE Intelligence group said the militants released a video that showed Ridsdel, 68, being beheaded.
The militants said they were angry the Canadian government failed to meet their demands for ransom.
Last month the militants threatened to kill one of the two surviving western hostages on June 13 if their demands weren’t met.
Said Trudeau: “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.”
Trudeau reiterated that the loss of the two Canadians fuels “more violence and instability.”
“Canada will not give into their fear-mongering tactics and despicable attitude toward the suffering of others,” he said.
Another video released by the militants last month showed the three remaining hostages pleading for help from the Canadian and Philippines government as gun-wielding hooded captors stood behind them.
Trudeau has steadfastly refused to entertain the thought of paying ransom to hostage takers. He said after learning of Ridsdel’s execution that Canada would never pay a ransom for the hostages in the Philippines and last month he persuaded leaders of the other G7 countries to reiterate their opposition to paying ransoms.
He repeated that stance in his statement.
“This is precisely why the government of Canada will not and cannot pay ransoms for hostages to terrorists groups, as doing so would endanger the lives of more Canadians.
“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.”
Trudeau extended his “heartfelt condolences” to the family and friends of Hall.
“They have suffered a terrible loss, and this is a devastating moment for them. Our thoughts are with them as they mourn this tragedy. I would ask that the media respect their privacy, and allow them time to come to terms with their loss.”
Abu Sayyaf is considered a violent militant group in the southwestern Philippines. It has been blamed for several bloody terrorist attacks in the country.