Canadian hostage John Ridsdel has been beheaded by the Islamic Abu Sayyaf Group in Jolo, a Philippine island with a flourishing drug trade. After seven months in the hands of kidnappers sustained by ransom money, drug trafficking, and “human shield” communities reliant on runoff from the spoils, the retired Canadian mining executive was killed for coming up short on the amount demanded.
According to Interaksyon, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made an announcement on Monday, April 25, 2016, condemning the atrocity after Filipino authorities found Ridsdel’s head in Jolo, Sulu. While standing firm on the Canadian policy of not paying ransom to terrorists, Trudeau expressed his anger.
“I’m outraged by the news that a Canadian citizen, John Ridsdel, held hostage in the Philippines since September 21, 2015, has been killed at the hands of his captors. Canada condemns without reservation the brutality of the hostage-takers and this unnecessary death.”
Sulu police reported that two unidentified riders on a motorcycle threw a plastic bag at some young men gathered to play basketball at the corner of Mayor Sali Yusah and Sari Ahmad Isnani Streets, Barangay Walled City, Jolo at around 7:35 p.m. on Monday. In the bag was the head of a “foreigner” later identified as Canadian hostage Ridsdel.
Ridsdel was among the four people abducted by Abu Sayyaf raiders on September 21, 2015, from a Samal Island resort in Davao del Norte. Another Canadian made hostage was Robert Hall, along with Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad, and Filipina Marithes Flor. Authorities say the group is also keeping 14 Indonesians, four Malaysians, one Dutch, and one Japanese, captive.
In a later development, The Globe and Mail reported that Ridsel’s body was found in a dry mountain creek near Gata, a small village in the mid portion of Jolo, at around 10 a.m. Wednesday, April 27. Philippine authorities issued a statement to this effect, using the acronym A.S.G. for the Abu Sayyaf Group.
“The cadaver was dumped in the creek by the perpetrator, believed to be the group of A.S.G.”
Six weeks after the abduction, Abu Sayyaf terrorists released a video on social media of Canadian hostage Ridsdel among others in a jungle setting draped with Islamic State (I.S.I.S.) flags, to demand P1 billion ($21 million U.S.) each for the safe release of the three foreigners.
Canadian hostage Ridsdel and the two other men, Hall and Sekkingstad, were forced to beg on camera for their lives. Over the next few months, similar videos were posted, showing the hostages in increasingly frail condition. In the last video, Ridsdel, a 68-year-old retiree, warned that he would be killed on April 25 if a ransom of P300 million was not paid.
According to Manila Bulletin in November of 2015, military watchers were tracking seven Abu Sayyaf factions consolidating their forces in the forests of Sitio Tobeg Angelan, Barangay Darayan, Patikul, on Jolo island, to brace for government search-and-rescue operations. Canadian Ridsdel was believed to have been lumped in with other captives sold to Abu Sayyaf by a gang of five “Muqtadir brothers” in a lucrative kidnap-for-ransom operation. The total hostage count is estimated to have reached around 30.
American missionaries Martin and Gracia Burnham, two kidnap victims prior to the taking of Canadian hostage Ridsdel, reportedly found the Abu Sayyaf men unfamiliar with the Qur’an. Author Mark Bowden wrote in his narrative of the Burnhams’ one-year ordeal (before a botched rescue killed Martin) that the terrorists had only “a sketchy” notion of Islam, which they saw as “a set of behavioral rules, to be violated when it suited them.” Thus fancying themselves to be “holy warriors, they were justified in kidnapping, killing and stealing.” They committed “sanctified rape” by “marrying” women captives they wanted for sex, like the ISIS fighters of Syria and Iraq.
London University lecturer Michael Buehler describes the Canadian hostage killers as “rooted in a distinct class made up of closely knit networks built through marriage of important families through socioeconomic backgrounds and family structures.” In this way are they tethered to their home base Jolo, all of 335,523 square miles, or about half the size of Prince Edward Island in Canada.
The logistics of mounting a military offensive against the Canadian’s killers who number four hundred at the most, on an isolated island, would not be prohibitive. Before the American liberators arrived at the end of World War Two, Japanese soldiers had effectively put this same island in a headlock. Continuous Philippine military pressure against the hostage-takers would stunt their growth by cutting short their recruitment of new fighters and purchase of top-grade weapons with money earned from kidnappings and drug trafficking.
When asked about Canadian hostage Ridsdel’s beheading, Philippine presidential front-runner Rodrigo Duterte had this to say.
“It’s too early to comment. I’m not yet the president of the Philippines. But this has to stop.”
A hint for those who killed Canadian hostage Ridsdel and are still holding others captive: when Duterte says “Stop,” criminals stop – one way or another.
[Photo by Gabriel Mistral/Getty Images]