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As Clock Ticks on Hostages Held By Abu Sayyaf, Canada to Raise Ransom Issue at G7 Talks

A "final message" video released this weekend by the Filipino militants demands a ransom payment for one of two remaining Canadian hostages, Robert Hall.

by Hilary Beaumont
May 24 2016, 8:35pm

Canadian hostage Robert Hall, left, and John Ridsdel, who was killed last month, in earlier ransom video.

As pressure mounts on Canada to secure the safe release of a Canadian hostage held by Islamic State-affiliate Abu Sayyaf, Canada and Britain plan to raise the issue of ransom payments at the G7 summit in Japan this week.

The report that the two countries will raise the issue comes on the heels of a "final message" video by the Filipino militants that demands a ransom payment for one of two remaining Canadian hostages, Robert Hall.

Abu Sayyaf has set June 13 as the ransom deadline for Hall, demanding $300 million pesos ($8.1 million) for his release. The group beheaded the other Canadian hostage, John Ridsdel, on the previously set deadline of April 25 in what Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called "an act of cold-blooded murder."

But Trudeau has been unequivocal that Canada will not pay ransoms for hostages, saying it would fund terrorism and encourage hostage-taking worldwide.

In the new video, which the group calls a "final message," Hall appeals to Filipino President-Elect Rodrigo Duterte to communicate with the Canadian embassy. Hall sits alongside his fellow captives, Filipina Marites Flor and Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad, wearing orange T-shirts that mimic the style of Islamic State videos showing captives in orange jumpsuits.

"I came into your beautiful country in good faith and in peace and here I am," Hall says in the video, according to Global News. "We hope that you can work on our behalf as soon as possible to get us out of here, and please, the sooner the better."

Related: 'I Am Outraged," Trudeau Says After Canadian Captive Killed in the Philippines

A government source told CBC that Canada and Britain, which has also taken an anti-ransom position, plan to raise the issue of such payments at the G7 meetings in Japan. France and Italy, both members of the G7, are known for paying ransoms in order to secure the release of citizens who have been kidnapped abroad.

Global Affairs Canada told VICE News it is aware of the video. "The Government's first priority is the safety and security of its citizens and therefore we will not comment or release any information which may compromise ongoing efforts or endanger the safety of the remaining hostages," Global Affairs spokesperson Rachna Mishra said in an email.

Meanwhile the Filipino military is continuing its search for the hostages. Only days before Ridsdel's killing, the military deployed more troops in its ongoing rescue mission in the jungles of Sulu, where it's believed Abu Sayyaf is holding not only this group of hostages but as many as two dozen others.

"We do not follow [a] deadline, whether it's nearing or not, as long as we get the information, the troops will hit them," a military spokesperson told PhilStar at the time.

Related: Beheaded Hostage Triggers Debate Over Whether Governments Should Pay Ransoms

Trudeau has publicly said Canada will not pay ransoms in exchange for hostages, directly or indirectly.

"There are very direct and concrete reasons for this," he said following Ridsdel's death. "First of all, obviously this is a significant source of funds for terrorist organizations that then allows them to continue to perpetuate deadly acts of violence against innocents around the world.

"But more importantly, paying ransom for Canadians would endanger the lives of every single one of the millions of Canadians who live, work and travel around the globe every single year."

"The government of Canada is committed to working with the government of the Philippines and international partners to pursue those responsible for this heinous act and bring them to justice," Trudeau said following Ridsdel's death.

Follow Hilary Beaumont on Twitter: @hilarybeaumont