Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Monday it was “likely” that a Canadian kidnapped by Islamic militants in the southern Philippines nearly nine months ago has been killed.
“It is with deep sadness that I have reason to believe that a Canadian citizen, Robert Hall, held hostage in the Philippines since September 21, 2015, has been killed by his captors,” Trudeau said in a statement.
Canada’s CBC News reported that Hall was killed by the extremist group Abu Sayyaf on Monday, making good on previous threats to murder at least one hostage if a ransom deadline of June 13th was not met.
Abu Sayyaf, whose leaders have sworn allegiance to the terror group Isis, had demanded 600 million pesos ($12.8 million) for the release of Hall, Sekkingstad and Marites Flor, Hall's Filipina girlfriend.
The extremists killed Canadian hostage John Ridsdel in April after a previous deadline passed.
The terrorists reportedly contacted the Filipino news site Inquirer to report the murder. The three captives spoke with Inquirer in the hours before Hall was killed.
“My condition is pretty bad. We have been starved, our sleep is deprived and they threaten to beat me,” Hall told the site.
The Inquirer reported that Sekkingstad was allowed to speak with his brother on Sunday night.
“We do our best but it’s not enough to meet their demand. We don’t know for sure. Four of us to start with and when deadline [was] not met one was beheaded. We are kept in the dark. I really don’t know what is happening,” the Norwegian told the news site.
Last month, the group released what it called a “final message” from the hostages, in which Sekkingstad was forced to appeal to the Norwegian government for help.
Sekkingstad and Flor are now the only hostages remaining of those abducted in September 2015 by Abu Sayyaf from a resort on Samal island, hundreds of kilometres from Abu Sayyaf's traditional strongholds.
The terrorist group is also believed to be holding four Malaysians, a Dutch bird-watcher and four Filipinos, seized in separate raids.
Although Abu Sayyaf leaders have pledged fealty to Isis, analysts say they are more focused on lucrative kidnappings-for-ransom than on setting up a caliphate.
The group is believed to have just a few hundred militants but has been blamed for the worst terror attacks in Philippine history. Abu Sayyaf has withstood repeated US-backed military offensives, surviving by using the mountainous, jungle terrain of the southern islands to its advantage.