Abu Sayyaf beheads Canadian hostage John Ridsdel

(CNN Philippines) — Canadian John Ridsdel, one of four hostages kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf group (ASG) on Samal Island last September has been beheaded by the militant group.

An initial police report obtained by CNN Philippines said the severed head is believed to belong to Canadian hostage John Ridsdel, who was killed after no ransom was paid by the deadline set by the rebel group. The severed head was found in Jolo, Sulu on Monday night (April 25).

On Tuesday morning (April 26), officials confirmed that Ridsdel was executed. "We extend our sympathy and condolences to the Canadian government and to the family of Mr. John Ridsdel who died in the hands of the ASG bandit," the police and the military said in a joint statement.

The police report said two unidentified men aboard a motorcycle without a license plate threw the severed head somewhere along Marina Street, Barangay Walled City, Jolo at around 7:35 p.m.

"A civilian discovered it in a yellow sack near the municipal hall of Jolo," said Armed Forced of the Philippines Public Affairs Chief Col. Noel Detoyato.

Jolo Police Chief Supt. Junpikar Sitin immediately went to the site, cordoned off the area and, informed the Scene of the Crime Operation (SOCO) team, which confirmed the head belonged to Ridsdel.

Months in captivity

Ridsdel along with three others were kidnapped on Samal Island in September 2015.

Samal_CNNPH.png

The others kidnapped in Samal were Robert Hall, also Canadian; Kjartan Sekkingstad, a Norwegian; and a Filipina named Marithes "Tess" Flor.

The Abu Sayyaf Group initially asked for P1 billion for each of the four hostages, but lowered it to P300 million after moving the deadline from April 8 to April 25.

The three men appeared in a video that circulated in March, pleading to their governments to pay ransom within the one-month deadline set by their abductors – or the terrorists would kill them.

Related: Foreign captives held by Philippine militants appeal for help

President Benigno Aquino III earlier ordered the police and military to exert all effort to rescue the victims following the deadline of the Abu Sayyaf.

The government, however, maintained its no ransom policy.

Read: Malacañang reiterates 'no ransom policy' amid Abu Sayyaf threat

'Cold-blooded murder'

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau released a statement on Monday condemning the killing.

In a statement released on the Prime Minister's website, Trudeau said, "I am 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. This was an act of cold-blooded murder and responsibility rests squarely with the terrorist group who took him hostage."

He added, "The Government of Canada is committed to working with the Government of Philippines and international partners to pursue those responsible for this heinous act and bring them to justice."

Read: Who are the Abu Sayyaf?

Bob Rae, a longtime friend of Ridsdel, said in an interview with CNN that members of the victim's family were able to talk to Philippine authorities while he was still in captivity.

"[E]very effort was being made to make sure that information was being provided to the families, that they were able to get to the Philippines, which many members of the family were able to do, to talk to officials in the Philippines who have been watching this situation very closely."

However, he pointed out the difficulties involved in negotiations with the Abu Sayyaf. "[Y]ou're talking to a guerrilla group, a terrorist group in the middle of a war zone and obviously that made it — not talking about any kind of traditional negotiation. It was a very different kind of situation.

'Cruel and inhuman act'

Several government agencies extended their deepest sympathies to Ridsdel's family and condemned the ASG for beheading the Canadian.

Communications Secretary Herminio "Sonny" Coloma Jr. said in a statement on Tuesday (April 25) that "there will be no let-up in the resolute efforts of the joint PNP-AFP task group in pursuing intensive and wide-ranging military and law enforcement operations to neutralize these lawless elements and thwart further threats to peace and security."

"We extend our deepest sympathy and condolences to the Canadian government and to the family of Mr. John Ridsdel who died in the hands of the ASG bandits," he said in a statement. "The President has directed the security forces to apply the full force of the law to bring these criminals to justice."

Department of National Defense spokesman Peter Paul Galvez the department "strongly" condemns the act by the ASG.

"This further fuels our resolve for the continuous operations until all remaining hostages are rescued and they are neutralized," Galvez said.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), in a statement, said, "We join you in grieving for the lives lost in this senseless act of violence. We support our brave men in uniform – some of whom have sacrificed life and limb – who remain relentless in rescuing the remaining hostages and bringing these nefarious elements to justice."

It added: "The DFA strongly condemns this cruel and inhuman act perpetrated by the Abu Sayyaf group, and reiterates its strong resolve to oppose terrorism in all of its forms."

In a joint statement, the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines said "there will be no let up in the determined efforts of the joint AFP- PNP task group's intensive military and law enforcement operations to neutralize these lawless elements and thwart further threats to peace and security."

"The full force of the law will be used to bring these criminals to justice," the statement added.

ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman said the beheading was an "act against humanity."

"As a nation, we have to rise against this horrendous act of terrorism. Our faith and our humanity demand that we collectively and strongly condemn this act of terrorism," said Hataman.

"This incident is tragic and as peace-loving Muslims of Mindanao, as Filipinos tired of senseless deaths and violence, we stand against this. With heavy hearts, we express our condolences to the family of Mr. John Ridsdel."

Greater leverage?

In an interview with CNN Philippines on Tuesday, Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research Executive Director Rommel Banlaoi said that the execution increases the leverage of the militant group.

"[N]aipakita ng grupo na hindi sila nagba-bluff, na hindi lang sila nananakot, at isinasagawa nila ang kanilang violent intention kapag hindi nasunod ang kanilang demand."

[Translation: The group showed that it does not bluff and does not merely strike fear. They showed that they have the capacity for violence if their demands are not met.]

Banlaoi added that money has been a motivator for the group's activities.

"Ang kanyang motivation ay ang maka-generate ng pera para makabili din ng loyalty sa mga communities."

[Translation: Their motivation is money, so that they could generate funds to buy the loyalty of local communities.]

Authorities are escalating operations to neutralize the bandits and rescue the remaining hostages. Detoyato said there are combat support units with howitzers and choppers at the disposal of ground commanders in Basilan.

CNN Philippines' JC Ansis, Paolo Taruc and Eimor Santos contributed to this report.