An Algerian group has kidnapped and threatened to kill a Frenchman unless Paris halts air attacks in Iraq on fighters from its ally, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.
The Jund al-Khilafa group said in a video on Monday that it had abducted Herve Gourdel on Sunday in a mountainous Tizi Ouzu region in northern Algeria, where al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb is active.
We will do everything we can ... but a terrorist group cannot change France's position.
Gourdel was shown squatting on the ground flanked by two hooded men with assault rifles, as he asks for the French president, Francois Hollande, to intervene.
“I am in the hands of Jund al-Khilifa. This group is asking me to ask you [Hollande] to not intervene in Iraq. I ask you to do everything to get me out of this bad situation and I thank you.”
France launched its first air attacks on ISIL fighters last week, after joining a US-led coalition to “degrade and destroy” the threat posed by the group.
The French foreign ministry and presidency acknowledged Gourdel had been abducted, and that the video was genuine.
“We will do everything we can to liberate hostages,” said France’s foreign minister Laurent Fabius. “But a terrorist group cannot change France’s position.”
Jund al-Khalifa, or “the soldiers of the caliph”, are believed to have broken away from the local al-Qaeda affiliate and pledged alliegence to ISIL.
The abduction was announced on the same day ISIL’s spokesman, Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, called on supporters to attack foreigners wherever they are.
In a 43-minute video, Adnani said: “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 from the disbelievers waging war, including the citizens of the countries that joined a coalition against the Islamic State, then rely upon God, and kill him in any manner.”
An Algerian security official told the AP news agency that Gourdel, 55, was abducted along with two Algerian friends near Tikdjda, 110km from Algiers.
The Frenchman’s companions were released and they alerted authorities about the kidnapping, the security official said.