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Body of beheaded Canadian hostage recovered in Southern Philippines

ZAMBOANGA CITY – The body of a Canadian man beheaded by the Abu Sayyaf in southern Philippines had been recovered Wednesday as security forces intensified its operation against the jihadist group allied with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, military intelligence sources said.

The body of the 68-year old John Ridsdel – who was brutally killed on April 25 – was found by villagers in the village of Gatas in Patikul town, a known stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf. His head was recovered the same day he was executed and handed over to his kin who flew to Zamboanga City from Canada.

Ridsdel, a former executive of international miner TVI Resource Development in Zamboanga del Norte province, was beheaded in the hinterlands of Patikul after his family and the Canadian government failed to P300 million ransom demanded by the Abu Sayyaf.

The notorious group is still holding nearly 2 dozen foreign hostages – 14 of them Indonesian seamen kidnapped at sea in Sabah in Malaysia and in Tawi-Tawi, one of five provinces under the restive Muslim autonomous region in Mindanao.

Ridsdel was kidnapped by 10 gunmen from the resort island of Samal in Davao del Norte province in September 21 last year along with fellow Canadian Robert Hall, 50; and a Norwegian man Kjartan Sekkingstad, 56, and his Filipina girlfriend, Maritess Flor.

The Abu Sayyaf demanded as much as P300 million each for the safe release of the foreign hostages and set April 8 for the deadline, but extended this until April 25.

The military’s Western Mindanao Command under General Mayoralgo dela Cruz did not give any details of the on-going operations against the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu, another province in the autonomous region, but President Benigno Aquino ordered a massive assault on the jihadist group also blamed for the spate of terrorism there.

An army brigadier in Sulu, Alan Arrojado, who was earlier relieved by the Western Mindanao Command from his post as commander of the anti-terror task group in the province for failing to stop the Abu Sayyaf kidnappings, has resigned as chief of the 501st Infantry Brigade a day after Ridsdel’s beheading. He was replaced by army Colonel Jose Faustino.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines did not say if it would also relieve Dela Cruz, who is also in-charge of military operations against the Abu Sayyaf in nearby Basilan province in the Muslim autonomous region, where 18 soldiers had been brutally killed and 5 dozens more wounded in fierce clashes in Tipo-Tipo town just this month. (With a report from Ely Dumaboc)

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