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Severed head found at gate of Jolo Cathedral

Palace, Canada condemn murder of Hall.

ZAMBOANGA CITY – A severed head purportedly belonging to Canadian hostage Robert Hall was found Monday evening at the gate of the Jolo Cathedral in Sulu.

Police said they recovered a head wrapped inside a sack at 8:45 p.m., less than three hours after it was reported that Hall was beheaded in the vicinity of Barangay Bud Bunga, the adjacent village of Sinumaan in Talipao, Sulu.

Followers of Abu Sayyaf leader Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan decapitated Hall’s head at about 6:05 p.m. after their demands of a large ransom were not met, according to reliable sources.

Without the body, the Philippine National Police (PNP), however, could not confirm if the head indeed belongs to Hall. A search for the body is now under way.

Hall was abducted from a marina last September along with another Canadian, a Norwegian and a Filipino. The other Canadian, former mining executive John Ridsdel, was beheaded in April.

Witnesses said two people aboard a motorcycle threw the sack near them and were shocked to discover the severed head of a Caucasian-looking man. They immediately reported the find to the police.

Police recovered the head and brought it to the Kuta Heneral Teodolfo Bautista in Jolo.

Hall was the second Canadian hostage to be killed in two months after their demands for a large ransom were not met.

Presidential spokesman Herminio Coloma condemned “the brutal and senseless murder’’ of Hall. He had been held by the Abu Sayyaf in the jungles of southern Sulu province for nine months.

“This latest heinous crime serves to strengthen our government’s resolve to put an end to this reign of terror and banditry,’’ he said in a statement.

A militant video obtained by police officials and seen by The Associated Press showed Hall in an orange shirt and kneeling in front of a black Islamic State-style flag before he was killed in a jungle area.

In Ottawa, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said there was “compelling reason to believe’’ that Hall had been killed by his captors, and that the Canadian government was working with Philippine authorities to confirm his death.

“We have every reason to believe that the reports are unfortunately true,’’ Trudeau said.

He said he was “horrified’’ by the killings and reaffirmed Canada’s refusal to pay ransoms.

“The government of Canada will not and cannot pay ransoms for hostages to terrorist groups, as doing so would endanger the lives of more Canadians,’’ Trudeau said in a statement.

“We are more committed than ever to working with the government of the Philippines and international partners to pursue those responsible for these heinous acts and bring them to justice, however long it takes.’’

Trudeau recently urged leaders of other members of the Group of Seven rich nations to reiterate their opposition to paying ransoms.

After being abducted from the marina on southern Samal Island last September, the hostages were taken by boat to Sulu, where the Abu Sayyaf has held hostages for years in mountainous jungle camps.

Ridsdel was beheaded on April 25 after a ransom demand of 300 million pesos ($6.3 million) was not paid.

In an Abu Sayyaf video posted on YouTube after Ridsdel’s death, Hall and the two other hostages, Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad and Filipino woman Marites Flor, pleaded to Canadian and Philippine officials to negotiate their release.

“We live like this every day, go to bed like this,’’ Hall said, raising his arms to show that he was handcuffed. We have a hundred people heavily armed around us all the time that dictate to us and talk to us like children. We’ve been humiliated in every way possible. One of us has already been murdered.’’

Hall spoke later in the video for a second time, sounding resigned to a tragic fate.

“I would also like to thank my family for the effort they put in – my family and friends for the effort they put in – to get me out of here. I know you did everything you can, and I truly appreciate it. I’m sorry I got you in this mess,’’ he said. (With AP report) (NONOY LACSON)