Beheading of Canadian hostage draws outrage but no end in sight for Abu Sayyaf

Enraged by the beheading of a second Canadian hostage by ransom-seeking Abu Sayyaf extremists, Philippine troops pressed a major offensive in the south Tuesday but there was no sign of an end to the small but brutal insurgency that a new president will inherit in about two weeks.

MANILA, Philippines — Enraged by the beheading of a second Canadian hostage by ransom-seeking Abu Sayyaf extremists, Philippine troops pressed a major offensive in the south Tuesday but there was no sign of an end to the small but brutal insurgency that a new president will inherit in about two weeks.

With a black Islamic State group-style flag as a backdrop, Abu Sayyaf fighters beheaded Canadian hostage Robert Hall on southern Jolo island on Monday after a ransom deadline passed.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Philippine counterpart, Benigno Aquino III, expressed outrage and vowed to exact justice.

Another Canadian, former mining executive John Ridsdel, was beheaded by the militants in April. The fate of two other hostages from Norway and the Philippines who were abducted with Hall and Ridsdel from a small marina on southern Samal Island in September remains unknown, according to the military.

“This latest heinous crime serves to strengthen our government’s resolve to put an end to this reign of terror and banditry,” Aquino said through his spokesman.

In Ottawa, Trudeau said his government is “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.”

RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson said the Mounties are helping local authorities give chase to the kidnappers, “but as you know, it’s a very difficult piece of geography and it’s a very complex and challenging environment.”

The RCMP is conducting an extraterritorial investigation into the murders, meaning the perpetrators could one day face justice in Canada, he added.

Hall was born in Calgary, but lived in various places in Western Canada, and his career path took him from insurance sales to welding to acting, the Globe and Mail reported after he was taken hostage last September.

Monday’s beheading is the latest tragedy in the volatile mix of poverty, firearms, neglect and lawlessness that has cursed the southern Philippines.

The resource-rich region, where foreign and domestic mining, pineapple and banana companies have made fortunes, has been engulfed by Muslim and Marxist insurgencies.

The Abu Sayyaf emerged in the early 1990s as an extremist offshoot of a decades-long Muslim separatist rebellion waged by a large group named the Moro National Liberation Front. But the nascent Abu Sayyaf lost its commanders early in combat, sending its mostly rural fighters on a violent path of criminality, banditry and terrorism.

The group currently has about 400 fighters split into at least four factions.

Aside from support from an informal network of armed groups, the Abu Sayyaf also finds a lifeline among relatives and friends in rural communities who shelter them and provide food, logistics and information when they are pressed by army offensives.

Some local officials have also been suspected of providing support, regional military spokesman Maj. Filemon Tan said, explaining why the militants have endured in the mountainous hinterlands despite on-and-off military offensives against them.

“There are an extraordinarily large number of troops now trying to find the Abu Sayyaf on Jolo island,” Tan said. “The problem really is how to locate them.”

Early last year, a U.S. military force ended more than a decade of non-combat counterterrorism support, including satellite and drone surveillance, for Filipino troops battling the Abu Sayyaf, as the militants’ zeal waned.

The underfunded military, one of Asia’s most ill-equipped, began focusing instead on external defence as territorial rifts with China in the South China Sea escalated.

Under the new circumstances, the Abu Sayyaf sprang back into action with ransom kidnappings of tourists from neighbouring Malaysia as well as the southern Philippines, including the Samal island marina where Hall, Ridsdel, Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad and Filipino woman Marites Flor were taken at gunpoint last Sept. 21.

Following Ridsdel’s beheading on April 25 and Canadian expressions of outrage, Aquino ordered an intensified offensive against the militants. He plans to fly to Jolo, about 960 kilometres south of Manila, this week to impart a sense of urgency in containing the Abu Sayyaf, according to two military officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk about details of the trip with the media.

One of the officials, a general, said Aquino has made tremendous efforts to end the Abu Sayyaf’s brutal presence before he steps down at the end of the month. As things stand, however, the incoming president, crime-busting Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, will have to take over the campaign to end the group’s insurrection.

Just Posted

Tail Creek Raceway near Alix has been approved for another five years by Lacombe County.
(Photo from Tail Creek Raceways Facebook page)
Raceway near Alix approved for five more years

Tail Creek Raceways hopes to run first races June 19-20

In this Monday, March 15, 2021 file photo a vial of AstraZeneca vaccine is pictured in a pharmacy in Boulogne Billancourt, outside Paris. Questions remained Wednesday about the future of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine in Canada, as Manitoba limited use of the shot and Ontario announced it planned to save an incoming shipment to use as second doses.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Christophe Ena, File
Alberta could receive 76,500 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine next week

Alberta should be getting a large shipment of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine… Continue reading

An anti-lockdown protest went ahead outside a café in central Alberta on Saturday, despite pouring rain and a pre-emptive court injunction. (Photo by The Canadian Press)
RCMP investigating online threats made against officers who were at central Alberta protest

Online images purportedly showing officers attending weekend rally at Mirror in rifle crosshairs

Bowden Institution Black Press file photo
Bowden Institution inmate dies from COVID-19 complications

Bowden death the sixth in Canada’s federal prison system

Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer and several members of city council helped kick off the spring Green Deer cleanup campaign on Wednesday. Veer said city workers do their best to keep the city looking good, but need volunteer help to get rid of litter that has blown into bushes onto road sides over the winter. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff)
Red Deer city councillors launch spring Green Deer campaign

Volunteers are needed to keep the city looking good

Adam Feller reacts as he gets his Pfizer-BioNTech shot at a COVID-19 vaccination clinic on Thursday, May 13, 2021, in Montreal. Quebec has become the latest province to stop giving Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 shot as a first dose.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Ontario keeps stay-at-home order; Quebec pauses Oxford-AstraZeneca shots

Ontario has announced it’s keeping its stay-at-home order in place until at… Continue reading

The flag of the Supreme Court of Canada flies outside the building following a ceremony in Ottawa, Monday March 15, 2021. The owners of a horse that was disqualified after initially winning the Canadian Derby more than three years ago might have run out of legal room to reclaim the title. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Supreme Court won’t hear appeal from horse owners over derby dispute

OTTAWA — The owners of a horse that was disqualified after initially… Continue reading

People take part in a protest called 'Justice for Joyce' in Montreal, Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020, where they demanded justice for Joyce Echaquan and an end to systemic racism. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Quebec coroner’s inquest into death of Joyce Echaquan begins as her family testifies

MONTREAL — The husband of an Indigenous woman who was subjected to… Continue reading

Quebec Premier Francois Legault, centre, speaks during a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic, Tuesday, May 11, 2021, at the legislature in Quebec City. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot
Quebec tables revamp of French-language law, toughens rules for businesses, schools

MONTREAL — The Quebec government reasserted the right of Quebecers to live… Continue reading

Permanent residency
Canada announces new pathway to permanent residency for families of crash victims

Ottawa is launching a new policy to help the families of victims… Continue reading

Co-founders Craig (left) and Marc Kielburger introduce Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau as they appear at the WE Day celebrations in Ottawa on November 10, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Ethics watchdog: PM didn’t violate conflict rules over WE Charity, but Morneau did

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did not breach the Conflict of… Continue reading

Toronto FC forward Jozy Altidore, center, celebrates after scoring a goal against the Columbus Crew with teammates from left, forward Tsubasa Endoh, defender Omar Gonzalez and forward Patrick Mullins during the second half of an MLS soccer match, Wednesday, May 12, 2021, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
Bradley, Altidore scores in Toronto FC’s 2-0 win over Crew

ORLANDO, Fla (AP) — Michael Bradley had a goal and an assist,… Continue reading

A football with the CFL logo sits on a chair during a press conference in Winnipeg, Friday, November 27, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods
Former defensive lineman Klassen tackling retirement as he did opposing quarterbacks

Klassen spent seven CFL seasons with Montreal, Calgary and Ottawa

Most Read