Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday expressed outrage over the beheading of Canadian hostage John Ridsdel by suspected Islamist militants in the Philippines.
"Canada condemns without reservation the brutality of the hostage takers and this unnecessary death," a sombre-looking Trudeau told reporters from a cabinet retreat in Kananaskis, Alberta. "This was an act of cold-blooded murder and responsibility rests squarely with the terrorist group who took him hostage."
Canada is committed to working with the government of Philippines and international partners to pursue those responsible for "this heinous act" and bring them to justice, Trudeau said.
But he said Canada would not comment further or release any information that may compromise ongoing efforts or endanger the safety of the remaining hostages.
Canadian state media reported earlier Monday that the Western hostage who had been beheaded was Ridsdel, a former mining executive.
Ridsdel was one of four people abducted seven months ago from the southern resort island of Samal.
"It's hard. It's just very hard,” Bob Rae, a former Liberal member of Parliament and longtime friend of Ridsdel told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). "I've been involved behind the scenes for the last six months trying to find a solution and it's been very painful."
It is believed Ridsdel was executed after a deadline to pay a ransom lapsed, Philippine police said.
His severed head was found in a village on Jolo Island, 1,000 kilometres south of Manila, four hours after the deadline set by captors who are believed to be members of the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group.
"The head was placed in plastic and we need to search for the body and (conduct) DNA testing," said Chief Inspector Junpikar Sittin, chief of police in Jolo, adding that the head belonged to a Caucasian.
Ridsdel, 68, is described as semi-retired. He is the former chief operating officer of mining company TVI Resource Development Philippines, a subsidiary of Canada's TVI Pacific.
Ridsdel was kidnapped September 21 along with fellow Canadian Robert Hall, Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad and Filipino Marites.
On April 15, the captors warned they would behead one of them if a ransom of 300 million pesos (6.52 million dollars) for each of them was not paid by Monday.
The amount was down from the initial 1 billion pesos for each of them.
Before the severed head was found, the military and police said "maximum efforts" were being pursued to rescue the hostages.
"An estimated 400 Abu Sayyaf members and supporters are reportedly involved," they added in a statement.
The Abu Sayyaf has been blamed for some of the deadliest terrorist attacks in the Philippines. It has also been responsible for high-profile kidnappings involving foreign hostages.
Last month, the militants abducted 10 crew members of an Indonesian tugboat in seas between the provinces of Tawi-Tawi and Sulu and four Malaysian sailors off the coast of Borneo.
On April 8, Italian missionary Rolando del Torchio, 57, was freed after six months in captivity in Jolo. Military sources said more than 630,000 dollars was paid in ransom for his release.