A Frenchman was reportedly beheaded by Algerian militants. On Sunday, Herve Gourdel, 55, was kidnapped while hiking through the Tizi-Ouzou region of Algeria. Within hours, Jund al-Khilafa claimed responsibility for the abduction.
The Islamic militant group, also called the Soldiers of the Caliphate, has known ties to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). As reported by Al Jazeera, members of Jund al-Khilafa were previously associated with al-Qaeda. However, they eventually “pledged allegiance to ISIL” and formed their own militant group.
It appears that the Frenchman’s kidnapping and beheading were in response airstrikes against ISIL. Last week, France joined the United States in their pledge to “degrade and destroy” the jihadist group.
In response to the airstrikes, ISIL leader Muhammad al-Adnani called on supporters to strike out against “disbelievers.”
“If you can kill a disbelieving American or European… the spiteful and filthy French… or an Australian, or a Canadian, or any other disbeliever… kill him in any manner or way however it may be… Kill the disbeliever whether he is civilian or military… “
Following Herve Gourdel’s kidnapping, Jund al-Khalifa released two videos. In the first, Gourdel outlined the militants’ demands and pleaded for his life.
“I am in the hands of Jund al-Khilifa. This group is asking me to ask you [French President Francois Hollande] to not intervene in Iraq. I ask you to do everything to get me out of this bad situation and I thank you.”
The French government was given 24 hours to comply with the demands. On Wednesday, the Algerian militants announced the Frenchman was beheaded. As reported by CNN, the announcement was made through a video — which was posted online.
In the clip, titled “A message of blood for the French government,” Herve Gourdel is beheaded by two soldiers — who identify themselves as members Jund al-Khilafa.
France’s foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, said officials are doing “everything [they] can to liberate hostages.” However, they are unwilling to surrender to the militants’ demands.
In an official statement, French President Francois Hollande confirmed both videos were genuine, and that Herve Gourdel is dead. He called the heinous act “cruel and cowardly.”
Authorities believe the Frenchman’s beheading was prompted by Muhammad al-Adnani’s message. In 2014 alone, ISIL claimed responsibility for more than a dozen beheadings. Those killed include journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, and British aid workers Alan Henning and David Cawthorne Haines.
[Image via Al Jazeera]