MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Philippine troops on Saturday dug up what they believe is the body of Canadian hostage Robert Hall, who was beheaded by Abu Sayyaf extremists more than two weeks ago in the south after a ransom deadline lapsed.
Villagers led the troops to a hinterland near Kamuntayan village in Sulu province's Talipao town where the militants buried Hall's body after killing him on June 13. Hall's head was found abandoned outside a Roman Catholic cathedral, regional military spokesman Maj. Filemon Tan said.
Chances were high that it was Hall's body, Tan said, citing intelligence reports and help from villagers. Police forensic experts would confirm the identity, he said.
Hall was kidnapped with fellow Canadian John Ridsdel, Norwegian Kjartan Sikkengstad and Filipino Marites Flor in September last year in a yacht-berthing resort on Samal Island, also in the south and taken by boat to Sulu, a predominantly Muslim and impoverished province 590 miles (950 kilometers) south of Manila.
Ridsdel had also been beheaded, Sikkengstad remains in Abu Sayyaf custody and Flor has been freed.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau condemned the killings and called on other nations not to pay ransoms if their citizens are abducted to discourage the militants from carrying out more ransom kidnappings.
Philippine troops have been carrying out an offensive that has killed dozens of militants in Sulu.
The Abu Sayyaf, which has more than 400 armed fighters, is blacklisted by the United States and the Philippines as a terrorist group for bombings, kidnappings for ransom, beheadings and extortion. The militants have been weakened by years of battle setbacks but remain a national security threat.