Frenchman kidnapped in Algeria
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A French national was kidnapped in a mountainous region of Algeria over the weekend, the French Foreign Ministry confirmed on Monday. The French tourist has been missing since Sunday evening, when he was hiking with his Algerian friends.
The 55-year-old native of Nice in southern France was trekking in the mountainous Kabylie region of northeastern Algeria when he was kidnapped on Sunday evening by a terrorist group, according to an Arabic language Algerian news site. The name of the terrorist group was not revealed.
In a statement released Monday evening, the French Foreign Ministry confirmed the kidnapping and said it had not received any claim of responsibility. The identity of the abducted man was not revealed.
The Tizi Ouzou region where the Frenchman was hiking has seen sporadic attacks by al Qaeda’s North African branch, AQIM (Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb). It was not immediately clear if the French national was kidnapped by AQIM or one of the many AQIM splinter groups in the area or criminal gangs that abduct locals for ransoms.
A mountainous and wooded area east of the Algerian capital of Algiers, the Kabylie region is an ideal hideout for armed groups and remains a theatre of militant Islamist groups decades after the end of the country brutal 1990s civil war.
The news of the kidnapping came hours after the Islamic State (IS) group issued an audio statement calling on Muslims worldwide to kill citizens of nations that have joined the fight against the jihadist group in Iraq.
In a nearly 42-minute audio statement released online late Sunday, Islamic State group spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani called on followers to “kill a disbelieving American or European – especially the spiteful and filthy French – or an Australian, or a Canadian, or any other disbeliever from the disbelievers waging war” against the group.
Responding to the IS statement on Monday, French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said the country was capable of handling the threat.
"This is not the first time France has been threatened by terrorist groups who attack the values of tolerance,” said Cazeneuve. "Even if there is no such thing as zero risk, today we are taking 100 percent precautions."
However, Paris urged nationals abroad to exercise "utmost caution" after the threat.