By Hader Glang & Roy Ramos
ZAMBOANGA CITY, the Philippines (AA) – Philippine authorities are identifying a head found in a troubled southern island province after Daesh-affiliated militants said they executed a remaining Canadian hostage following the expiration of a ransom deadline.
GMA News reported late Monday that Philippine security forces retrieved the severed head in Jolo town of Sulu -- a stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf militant group -- and transported it to their camp.
Earlier in the day, the Abu Sayyaf’s designated spokesman, Abu Raami, told the Philippine Inquirer that they killed Robert Hall after a 600 million peso ($13 million) ransom failed to be paid before the 3 p.m. (0100GMT) deadline.
A Jolo-based police intelligence officer who requested anonymity as he was not authorized to speak with media had told Anadolu Agency that Hall was beheaded by an Abu Sayyaf faction under Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan somewhere in the village of Sinumaan in Talipao town.
Maj. Filemon Tan, Western Mindanao Command spokesman, refused to confirm the alleged execution, insisting Monday night that authorities had to first be certain.
GMA quoted him saying, “it will be unfair to the family if we made a mistake. So we have to be very sure that we correctly give information.”
In April, the Abu Sayyaf beheaded another Canadian, Robert Ridsdel, who had been abducted from Samal island alongside Hall, Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad and Filipina Marites Flor last September.
The governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, Mujiv Hataman, released a statement condemning the reported killing Monday.
"It has only been a week since Ramadan began, and it is appalling that this holy month we set aside for prayer and reflection has already been violated by extremists here and abroad, as they wage violence in the name of our faith,” he said.
“Extremists claim to follow the faith while they go against Islam’s message of peace and humanity,” he added. “Their betrayal of Islam knows no bounds that even in the most holy days of Ramadan, they turn a time meant for prayers and contemplation into days of fear and horror.”
Abu Sayyaf leader Sawadjaan has been blamed by authorities for the beheading of a Malaysian hostage in Sulu in November.
Since 1991, the Abu Sayyaf group -- armed with mostly improvised explosive devices, mortars and automatic rifles-- has carried out bombings, kidnappings, assassinations and extortions in a self-determined fight for an independent province in the Philippines.
It is notorious for beheading victims after ransoms have failed to be paid for their release.