IBTimes UK

Abu Sayyaf militants in the Philippines have killed 68-year-old Canadian hostage John Ridsdel after a ransom deadline expired over the weekend.

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirmed the execution, saying it is "an act of coldblooded murder."

The Islamist militants in the Philippines, who took hostage several foreigners six months ago, had threatened in March they would kill the captives within a month if their demands were not met.

Hours after a deadline ended, a severed head was found in a street on the remote island of Jolo.

The former mining executive, who had also worked as a journalist, had warned in a video released by his captors that he would be killed if ransom was not paid.

The Canadian government had said it was aware of the videos. "The government of Canada will not comment or release any information which may compromise ongoing efforts or endanger the safety of Canadian citizens," a government statement said in March.

While the government has now confirmed the dead hostage is Ridsdel, the Philippines military has said the severed head was that of a foreigner but did not confirm the death of the Canadian.

Ridsdel and others were abducted from a stronghold of the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf, an Islamist militant group that aims to create an Isis-style caliphate in the south of the Philippines.

The group is known for kidnaps for ransom and gruesome execution of victims.

In a video the group released in early March, two men were seen saying they are Canadian citizens. "I appeal for my life," one of them says.

The hostage identified as Ridsdel continued: "Please do what's needed to meet their demands within one month or they will kill me, and they will execute us. To the Canadian prime minister and to the Canadian people in the world, please, do as needed to meet their demands, within one month or they will kill me."

The hostages in the video, two Canadians, a Norwegian and a Filipino woman, were kidnapped in September last year from the Oceanview Resort on Samal Island in Southern Philippines.

Their captors were seen saying on video the hostages will be killed if ransom was not paid. One of the masked militants held a large knife to the neck of one of the captives, told the foreign governments to "stop procrastinating."

"I'll do something terrible against these captives," the militant said.

Who are Abu Sayyaf guerillas?

Abu Sayyaf translates into 'Bearer of the Sword'. It is an Islamic militant group founded in the early 1990s by a preacher who returned from the Afghan war.

Abu Sayyaf took shape as a splinter group of the Moro National Liberation Front MNLF).

The group was behind several bombings, hostage taking and kidnap for ransom throughout the 90s. They were behind the Manila bombings in 2005 and the bomb explosion outside the Philippine Congress in 2007 that killed a Congressman and three others.

In 2001 they kidnapped tourists from a resort and murdered three of the hostages later, including an American.

Abu Sayyaf's vision is the establishment of a pan-Islamic super-state in Southeast Asia. Their immediate goal is to set up an Islamic state in the western Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago.

Abu Sayyaf founder Abdurajak Abubakar Janjalan was killed in a military action in 1998 and his brother who took over the reins of the outfit was killed in 2006.

The outfit has been linked to al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiah at various times.

IBTimes UK