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Sep 22, 2014 3:22 PM

Islamist group kidnaps Frenchman in Algeria

The Associated Press

ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) An al-Qaida splinter group has kidnapped a French citizen and announced on Monday that it will execute him unless France ends its participation in air strikes against the Islamic State group in Iraq.

In a video that appeared on social media, a masked member of a group calling itself Jund al-Khilafah, or Soldiers of the Caliphate, warned French President Francois Hollande that it would execute the hostage if France doesn't end its military actions against the Islamic State group.

The French Foreign Ministry confirmed the kidnapping of a French citizen in Algeria, but did not identify him or his kidnappers.

French forces joined the U.S. on Sept. 19 in carrying out airstrikes against forces from the Islamic State group which have overrun large swathes of Syria and Iraq.

The Frenchman appeared in the video flanked by two armed masked men and said he was taken hostage by the group on Sunday and reiterated its demands that French airstrikes end.

The Jund al-Khilafah group broke away from the al-Qaida's North African branch in recent weeks and has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, which has emerged as a brutal rival to al-Qaida.

An Algerian security official in the mountainous city of Tizi Ouzou, in the region where the kidnapping happened, said the 55-year-old man was a mountain guide from the French city of Nice and was hiking with two friends when he was abducted Sunday.

The three had spent the night at a ski lodge near the town of Tikdjda, 110 kilometers (65 miles) from the capital, Algiers.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak to the media. The area is now being combed by army and elements of the local guard.

On Sunday, the spokesman for the Islamic State group, Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, urged followers to kill Europeans and Americans, and "especially the spiteful and filthy French." The group has beheaded two American journalists and a British aid worker.

Responding to the statement at the time, French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said he was confident of the country's security.

"This threat to kill civilians, added to the execution of hostages and to the massacres, is yet another demonstration of the barbarism of these terrorists, justifying our fight without truce or pause," Cazeneuve said Monday. "France is not afraid because it is prepared to respond to their threats."

Algeria has been battling Islamist militants since the 1990s and in recent years has confined them to a few mountainous regions in the north of the country and in the Sahara desert in the extreme south.

Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb made millions of dollars over the last decade kidnapping Western tourists in the Sahara Desert.


Schemm reported from Rabat.


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