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‘Strong probability’ French jihadist in Kassig execution video

© Photo: Screen grab of IS group propaganda video released on November 16, 2014

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-11-18

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said Monday there was a strong possibility that one of the Islamic State group militants in the latest execution video of a US aid worker was a 22-year-old French citizen.

“Our intelligence services have analysed the video. These analysts say that there is a strong probability that a French national participated directly in this heinous crime,” said Cazeneuve.

“Investigations are ongoing, but it is strongly presumed that the person is Maxime Hauchard, born in 1992.”

Cazeneuve’s statement comes a day after the Islamic State group (IS, also known as ISIS or ISIL) released a video showing the beheading of US aid worker Abdul-Rahman Kassig and 18 Syrian prisoners.

Kassig, who was known as Peter Kassig before he converted to Islam, was a former US Army Ranger who founded a humanitarian agency to help Syrians affected by the civil war. He was captured in October 2013 while travelling to Deir Ezzour in eastern Syria.

“Pure evil”

The 16-minute video released Sunday showed a masked militant standing over the severed head of a man it said was Kassig. It also featured a group of 18 prisoners who captors claimed were Syrian Air Force pilots. In the video, each of the victims is being held by an unmasked, uniformed IS militant.

In the shocking video, jihadists are shown marching the captive men past a box of long military knives, each taking one as he passed before forcing the prisoners to kneel in a line and decapitating them. The high-definition video includes close-ups of the extremists.

Hours after the release of the video, French media outlets identified one of the executioners as Hauchard, who goes by the nom de guerre, Abdallah Al-Faransi.

“He has been seen in several other IS propaganda videos,” said Wassim Nasr, FRANCE 24’s expert on jihadist movements. “[Hauchard] is known to have converted to Islam at the age of 17, but he has no prior criminal record in France, like around 50 percent of foreigners who have joined the group.”

US President Barrack Obama called Kassig's killing “an act of pure evil” and said the Islamic State group “revels in the slaughter of innocents, including Muslims, and is bent only on sowing death and destruction.”

Hauchard and other militants unmasked

The French jihadist Hauchard first made headlines in France in July after giving an extended interview to France’s BFM TV news channel. At that time, the 22-year-old native of the northern French region of Normandy said he had easily travelled to Syria in the summer of 2013.

“He has an atypical profile, everyone who knew him in France remembers him as a kind young man,” said BFM TV journalist Julien Martin.

Hauchard also told BFM that he attended a Koranic school in Mauritania, adding that he initially wanted to wage jihad in Mali, but then he decided to travel to Syria.

FRANCE 24’s Nasr said it was significant that the IS executioners had chosen to appear unmasked in the latest beheading video.

“First, they are presenting themselves as the avengers of the Syrian people, who have suffered three years of [President Bashar al-Assad’s] air strikes. Second, they are presenting themselves as an international and multi-ethnic group,” Nasr said.

Date created : 2014-11-17

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