Islamist extremists have beheaded one of three foreigners they took from a high-end resort in the strife-torn southern Philippine island group of Mindanao last September, carrying out their threat to execute their hostages if they were not paid 900 million pesos (S$26 million) in ransom.
It was not clear as of late Monday night (April 25), however, which hostage was dead.
Unofficial reports sent by security forces from Jolo Island, 1,900km south of the capital Manila, said Canadian John Ridsdell was beheaded at around 3pm, on Monday in Patikul town on Sulu Island.
The report identified the man who beheaded the Canadian as one Ben Takoh Sawadjaan.
Another report, however, said a severed head "apparently that of (Norwegian Kjartan Sakkingstad)" was found near the gate of the Jolo Municipal Hall at around 8pm.
The Straits Times learnt from another source that the head was actually Ridsdell's.
Ridsdell, 68, Sakkingstad, 56, another Canadian Robert Hall, 50, and a Filipina, Maritess Flor, 40, were taken on September 21, 2015 by bandits said to be from the small, but brutal, Abu Sayyaf group from the Holiday Oceanview Samal resort on Samal island, in Davao province.
More than two weeks ago, the Abu Sayyaf released a video threatening to begin beheading the three men by Monday (April 25).
With a machete held to their necks, Ridsdell, Sakkingstad and Hall were seen begging their governments to pay a ransom of 300 million pesos for each of them.
Flor was not allowed to speak.
The group holding them threatened to execute them on April 8, but later moved their deadline to April 25.
The Abu Sayyaf, whose chieftain Isnilon Hapilon has been recognised by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) as a council leader, is known for extortion, kidnappings, beheadings and bombings.
It was formed by disgruntled Moro Islamic fighters in 1991, with funding from Al-Qaeda.
Copyright: The Straits Times/ Asia News Network