ALGERIA

Algerian army ‘finds’ body of French hiker Hervé Gourdel

Facebook | A photo of Hervé Gourdel taken from his Facebook page

Algeria’s army has found the body of French hiker Hervé Gourdel, security sources and Algerian media said on Thursday, nearly four months after he was taken hostage and beheaded by Islamist militants.

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Gourdel, a 55-year-old from Nice, was kidnapped on September 21, 2014 after militants stopped his vehicle in the remote mountains east of the capital Algiers, where he had planned to go hiking. He was beheaded by his captors days later.

His body was found buried without the head in Akbil, the town where he was abducted, security sources told AFP.

The Frenchman’s kidnapping was one of the first abductions of a foreigner by militants in Algeria since the North African country ended a decade-long war with Islamist fighters in the 1990s, during which around 200,000 people were killed.

Gourdel’s abduction took place after Islamic State (IS) group, also known as ISIS or ISIL, urged the group’s followers to attack citizens of the United States, France and other countries that had joined a coalition to destroy the extremist Islamist movement.

The Jund al-Khalifa fi Ard al-Jazayer – variously translated as Soldiers of the Caliphate in Algeria or Caliphate Soldiers of Algeria – claimed responsibility for Gourdel’s killing, saying it was in retaliation for France’s intervention in Iraq.

A little-known group that split from al Qaeda’s North African branch, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the Jund al-Khalifa announced its allegiance to the IS group in a statement released on September 13.

The leader of the group, Abdelmalek Gouri, who goes by the nom de guerre Khaled Abu Suleiman, said he had broken away from AQIM because the al Qaeda branch had “deviated from the true path”.

The IS group has itself beheaded five Westerners in Syria since August most recently US hostage Peter Kassig  saying the killings were a response to US-led air strikes in both Syria and Iraq.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)

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