Canadians Abducted

Published: September 22, 2015

Canadians Abducted, Gunmen abducted two Canadians, including a former mining company executive, a Filipino woman and the Norwegian manager of an upscale marina and resort complex on a southern Philippine island, sparking an air and sea search by authorities, officials said Tuesday.

Police identified the victims as Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad, who was the resort’s marina manager, and Canadians John Ridsdel and Robert Hall.

Ridsdel, 68, is described as semi-retired. He is the former chief operating officer of mining company TVI Resource Development Philippines Inc., a subsidiary of Canada’s TVI Pacific, where he is still a consultant, a company officer said. A LinkedIn page for Ridsel said he became president of TVI Minerals Processing in April 2011. Information from a Bloomberg Business website says Ridsdel used to work for Petro-Canada, domestically at first and later in Pakistan, Burma and Algeria. Prior to joining Petro-Canada, he worked as a producer and reporter at CBC Calgary, and at the Calgary Herald.

Hall is reported to be 50 years old.

The Filipino woman has been identified as Teresita Flor, who is said to be the partner of one of the Canadians.

Couple escaped
At least 11 men armed with pistols arrived on a motorboat and entered the Holiday Ocean View Samal Resort before midnight Monday on Samal Island off Davao City, military officials said, citing a security video that captured part of the kidnapping.

The gunmen attempted to seize an American and his Japanese companion on one of the yachts docked at the marina, but the couple resisted and escaped by jumping off the boat. The two suffered minor injuries as they struggled to break free from the kidnappers, police said.

A man walks inside the Holiday Ocean View Samal Resort, on Samal Island in southern Philippines on Tuesday, a day after gunmen abducted a Norwegian resort manager, two Canadians and a Filipino woman. The gunmen appeared to have specifically targeted the victims, regional military spokesman Capt. Alberto Caber said. (Manuel Canyon/Associated Press)

Amid the commotion, the Canadians, Ridsdel and Hall, and the Filipino woman, Teresita Flor, rushed out of their yacht and were taken. Sekkingstad was seized when he approached to check what was happening, said Senior Supt. Samuel Gandingan, the police chief of Davao del Norte province, which includes Samal Island.

Government forces later heard of the abductions and launched a search.

“Unfortunately, the lead time that the abductors had and the darkness of night were able to cover the retreat of the abductors,” military spokesman Col. Restituto Padilla told reporters in Manila.

Government forces on planes and helicopters were scouring the waters and coastal areas in the Davao Gulf, according to Padilla and the police. Two motorboats were found in nearby Davao Oriental province and authorities were trying to ascertain if they were the boats the kidnappers had used, Gandingan said.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said the federal government is aware of reports that Canadians were kidnapped in the Philippines and is “pursuing all appropriate channels to seek further information.”

The government said it will not comment or release any information “which may compromise ongoing efforts and risk endangering the safety of Canadian citizens abroad.”

Norwegian officials said they have been notified about the reported abduction but have yet to independently confirm it.

“We are obviously very concerned now,” Olav David Sekkingstad, the father of the abducted Norwegian, told the Bergens Tidende newspaper in Norway.

Restive area
Speaking to CBC News from Mindanao, freelance reporter Dean Bernardo said the gunmen disarmed the resort’s security guards.

“[The abduction] is is quite unusual because this is a tourist town, and among the places here in Mindanao, this is supposed one of the…safest,” Bernardo said. “It is heavily secured.”

No group has claimed responsibility. Muslim and communist rebels, al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf militants and criminal syndicates have been active for years in the restive southern region due to weak law enforcement in rural areas despite years of on-and-off government crackdowns.

Philippines officials said the hostages were taken at gunpoint during a raid late on Monday night on the Oceanview resort on Samal island, near Davao City, the largest city on Mindanao island in the southern Philippines. (Google)

Communist New People’s Army guerrillas are active in the hinterlands of the Davao region, about 975 kilometres southeast of Manila, where they have denounced foreign mining operations and military counterinsurgency assaults.

Abu Sayyaf militants are notorious for kidnapping foreigners and Filipinos for ransom in the vast Mindanao region. In 2001, Abu Sayyaf militants tried unsuccessfully to seize hostages from the Pearl Farm Beach Resort south of Ocean View during a ransom-kidnapping spree.

The Abu Sayyaf abducted 21 people, mostly European tourists, from a diving resort in neighbouring Malaysia in 2000, then abducted three Americans and 17 Filipinos the following year from the Dos Palmas resort in Palawan province southwest of Manila.

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