Philippines military hunts down group that beheaded Canadian John Ridsdel

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From CBC News

The military of the Philippines came under increased pressure Tuesday to rescue more than 20 foreign hostages after their captors beheaded a Canadian man, but troops face a dilemma in how to succeed and also ensure the safety of the remaining captives.

Abu Sayyaf gunmen beheaded John Ridsdel on Monday in the southern densely forested province of Sulu. . . 

Ridsdel’s head, which was placed in a plastic bag, was dumped by motorcycle-riding militants Monday night in Jolo town in impoverished Sulu, about 950 kilometres south of Manila, where the Abu Sayyaf and allied gunmen are believed to be holding 22 foreign hostages from six countries.

It’s a politically sensitive time to carry out major offensives — it’s the height of campaign time in a close race between four contenders in May 9 presidential elections. President Benigno Aquino III and opposition politicians have had differences over the handling of the Muslim insurgencies and the poverty and social ills that foster it.

Among the 22 hostages are 14 Indonesians who were kidnapped from tugboats in two separate incidences. Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo said Tuesday that his country will host talks with Malaysia and the Philippines this week to boost maritime security following those hijackings.

In past militant videos posted online, Ridsdel and fellow Canadian Robert Hall, Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad and Filipino Marites Flor were shown sitting in a clearing with heavily armed militants standing behind them. In some of the videos, a militant aimed a long knife on Ridsdel’s neck as he pleaded for his life. Two black flags with ISIS-like markings hung in the backdrop of lush foliage.

In Canada, Ridsdel was remembered as a brilliant, compassionate man with a talent for friendship. “He could bridge many communities, many people, many situations and circumstances and environments in a very gentle way,” said Gerald Thurston, a lifelong friend of the former mining executive and journalist who grew up with him in Yorkton, Saskatchewan. Thurston said Ridsdel is survived by two adult daughters from a former marriage.

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