Algerian militants have beheaded French tourist Herve Gourdel, who was kidnapped by gunmen in the northeastern Kabylie region on Sunday, saying it was in retaliation for France’s move to join a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq.
In a video released by his captors, Gourdel, a 55-year-old from Nice, is seen kneeling with his arms tied behind his back before four masked militants who read out a statement in Arabic criticizing France’s intervention, Reuters reported.
They then pushed him on his side and held him down, the report said. The video does not show the beheading, but a militant later holds the head up to the camera, it said.
“This is why the Caliphate Soldiers in Algeria have decided to punish France, by executing this man, and to defend our beloved Islamic State,” one of the masked man says in the statement he read out.
France’s President Francois Hollande confirmed Gourdel’s death, and said French military operations against Islamic State would continue.
“Our compatriot has been killed cruelly and in a cowardly way by a terrorist group. Herve Gourdel was assassinated because he was French,” Hollande, visibly shaken by the events, said at the United Nations. “My determination is total, and this aggression only strengthens it. France will continue to fight terrorists everywhere. The operations against Islamic State will continue.”
The Caliphate Soldiers, a splinter group linked to Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, had on Monday published a video claiming responsibility for the abduction and showed the man identifying himself as Gourdel.
Islamic State spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani earlier urged the group’s followers to attack citizens of the United States, France and other countries that joined the coalition to destroy the extremist group.
Just before the militants gave their statement in the video, the Frenchman told his family that he loved them.
There was no immediate comment from Gourdel’s relatives, but a friend, Eric Grinda, told France’s i-Tele television: “They want to fan the flames of hatred and to make us want to respond. They only are able to do one thing, assassinate a man on his knees with his hands tied … My sadness is immense.”
France launched its first air strikes on Islamic State targets in Iraq on Friday. It has been on high security alert following the militants’ threat.
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