Villagers in the southern Philippines found a headless body on Wednesday, an army spokesman said, two days after the execution of a Canadian captive by militants, condemned as a "cold-blooded murder" by Canada's prime minister. Security is precarious in the southern Philippines, despite a 2014 peace pact between the government and the largest rebel group that ended 45 years of conflict. Canadian John Ridsdel, 68, a former mining executive, was captured by militants along with three other people in September 2015 while on vacation on a Philippine island. This week, the Philippine army said a severed head had been found on a remote island on Monday, five hours after the expiry of a ransom deadline set by the militants, who had threatened to execute one of four captives.
Residents found the head in the center of Jolo town. An army spokesman said two men on a motorcycle were seen dropping a plastic bag containing the severed head. Police confirmed the head to be that of Ridsdel. On Wednesday, army spokesman Major Filemon Tan said a headless body was found in a dried creek, near the jungles where Ridsdel was believed to have been beheaded by militants belonging to the Abu Sayyaf group. "We are still verifying if the body is that of John Ridsdel," Tan told reporters, adding that a police forensics team was conducting tests. "There were no blood stains in the area, suggesting the body was not beheaded in the area." Abu Sayyaf is a small but brutal militant group known for beheading, kidnapping, bombing and extortion in the south of the mainly Catholic country.
Ridsdel, 68, and three others, including a Norwegian and another Canadian, were abducted seven months ago in the southern Philippines. They had appealed in a March video for their families and governments to secure their release. In the video, they said the militants had threatened to behead one of them if the 300 million pesos ($6.4 million) ransom for each of them was not paid by Monday. The initial demand was one billion pesos each. Hours after Abu Sayyaf carried out its threat, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau condemned the execution as "an act of cold-blooded murder." Other foreigners held by Abu Sayyaf include one from the Netherlands, one from Japan, four Malaysians and 14 Indonesians. In the capital, Manila, Rodrigo Duterte, a front-runner in the presidential elections next month, told businessmen, "Kidnapping has to stop. It is destroying our country and it is destroying our country's reputation."