IS-linked group threatens to kill French hostage in Algeria
An Algerian group linked to Islamic State jihadists threatened to kill a French hostage within 24 hours unless Paris halts air strikes on the IS in Iraq, in a video posted Monday.
Jund al-Khilifa (Soldiers of the Caliphate), which has pledged allegiance to IS, said in the video that it carried out Sunday's kidnapping of the Frenchman in a mountainous region of eastern Algeria where Al-Qaeda is active.
The hostage, Herve Pierre Gourdel, white-haired and bespectacled, is shown squatting on the ground flanked by two hooded men clutching Kalashnikov assault rifles, as he asks for French President Francois Hollande to intervene.
"It is up to Hollande, president of the criminal French state, to halt the attacks on the Islamic State within 24 hours of this statement, otherwise his national Herve Gourdel will have his throat slit," one of his kidnappers says in the video.
Gourdel says he is a native of Nice in southern France who works as a mountain guide, and that he only arrived in Algeria on Saturday. He was seized while hiking with Algerian friends.
In the video, the kidnappers say they are responding to a call from IS, posted just hours earlier, for Muslims to kill citizens of countries taking part in the US-led coalition against the jihadists who have seized of large swathes of Iraq and Syria.
"If you can kill a disbelieving American or European -- especially the spiteful and filthy French -- or an Australian, or a Canadian or any other disbeliever... including the citizens of the countries that entered into a coalition against the Islamic State, then rely upon Allah, and kill him," said IS spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani.
"Kill the disbeliever whether he is civilian or military," he said in the message, which was released in multiple languages.
France mounted its first air strike to beat back the IS in Iraq on Friday, joining an aerial assault which the United States launched on August 8.
The French foreign ministry confirmed a national had been kidnapped during a visit to the Tizi Ouzou region.
Tizi Ouzou is in Kabylie, where Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM, has carried out deadly attacks this year.
"Everything is being done to find our fellow countryman. Authorities are mobilised and no hypothesis is being discarded," the ministry said.
- 'France not afraid' -
Earlier, France said it was not spooked by the IS call for Muslims to kill citizens of countries fighting the jihadists.
"France is not afraid," Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said repeatedly during a televised statement.
But, at the same time, the French foreign ministry urged nationals living in or travelling to some 30 countries in Africa and the Middle East to exercise "utmost caution".
Since December 2005, almost 80 Algerians have been kidnapped in Kabylie, with the kidnappers demanding ransoms. Three of the hostages have been killed.
On Monday, the Algerian army said it killed a "terrorist chief" the previous night in Kabylie, using Algeria's term for armed Islamists.
© 2014 AFP