Hollande blasts ‘cowardly’ murder of French hostage in Algeria
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French President François Hollande on Wednesday confirmed the “cruel and cowardly” killing of a Frenchman kidnapped in Algeria by an Islamic State-linked group.
Hollande’s confirmation came hours after the Algerian jihadist group Jund al-Khalifa released a video claiming to have beheaded a French national abducted in northeastern Algeria on Sunday.
The beheading marks the first time an IS-linked group has killed a Western national outside the battle zones in Iraq and Syria.
Speaking in New York, where he is attending the UN General Assembly meeting, Hollande said France would continue its military operations against the IS group in Iraq.
Denouncing the beheading, Hollande said the killing “reinforces” his determination to combat terrorism. “France will never give in to terrorism because it is our duty and above all, it is our honour,” said Hollande.
Hervé Gourdel, a 55-year-old mountaineering guide from the southern French city of Nice, was kidnapped by the IS-linked Algerian jihadist group Jund al-Khalifa while he was hiking in the mountainous Tizi Ouzou area.
The Jund al-Khalifa fi Ard al-Jazayer – variously translated as the “Soldiers of the Caliphate in Algeria” or “Caliphate Soldiers of Algeria” – emerged earlier this month, when a regional commander of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) released a statement announcing that he had broken away from al Qaeda and had sworn loyalty to IS group.
In a grisly decapitation video posted on jihadist sites on Wednesday, Jund al-Khalifa militants said they killed Gourdel because France failed to respond to a 24-hour deadline to stop its military assault on the IS group in Iraq.
The four-minute video begins with footage of Hollande announcing French strikes against IS targets in Iraq before cutting to clips of air strikes. The footage then fades to black before the title, “Message in Blood to the French Government” appears in French and Arabic.
Gourdel is then shown kneeling in a grey T-shirt before four hooded militants, two of them bearing assault rifles while another reads out a message in Arabic denouncing French military operations in Iraq, Algeria and Mali.
FRANCE 24 has made an editorial decision not to broadcast the video.
Obama says US stands by France
News of the brutal slaying came as the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a US-drafted resolution that compels all countries to adopt laws that would make it a serious crime for their nationals to join jihadist groups such as IS and al Qaeda’s regional branch, the al Nusra Front.
While chairing the session on Wednesday, US President Barack Obama expressed his solidarity with France. Looking at his French counterpart at the table, Obama said, “We stand with you and the French people as you grieve this terrible loss and as you stand up against terror and the defense of liberty.”
The Algerian government also condemned the “hateful” murder of a French national on Algerian soil.
“From the moment of the abduction of the French national, the Algerian authorities mobilized all of their energies and all of their human and material resources to free the hostage,” a government statement said.
Since the end of the brutal 1990s Algerian civil war, the state’s security forces have been engaged in ongoing counter-terror operations against jihadist threats across the vast North African nation.
The violence may have declined since the end of the civil war, when the Algerian security forces led a brutal, murky counter-terror operation that Algerians call “the dirty war”. But militant attacks – many of them underreported – continue to plague the gas-rich nation.
The rugged Atlas Mountains of the Kabylie region where Gourdel was kidnapped provide an ideal hideout of militant groups.
Swearing allegiance to the IS group
The little-known Jund al-Khalifa shot into the international headlines on Monday, when the al Qaeda-breakaway group released a video announcing Gourdel’s kidnapping.
The video was released just hours after the Islamic State 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 had 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 jihadists.
France has joined the US in carrying out air strikes against the IS group, which has seized swaths of Iraq and Syria. On September 19, French fighter jets bombed a fuel and weapons depot outside the northern Iraqi city of Mosul.
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