An Algerian Islamist terrorist group linked to the "Islamic State" (also known as IS or ISIS) on Tuesday claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of a French citizen, and threatened to execute him if their demands are not met.
The "Soldiers of the Caliphate" released a video in which they announced they would execute 55-year-old Hervé Gourdel within 24 hours if France did not end its involvement in the ongoing US-led military intervention against IS.
Sitting in between two masked, armed men, Gourdel addressed President Francois Hollande directly: "This armed group has asked me to demand that you do not intervene in Iraq. They are holding me hostage. I beg you, Monsieur Président, to do all in your power to get me out of here."
The French government has confirmed the authenticity of the video.
"Everything is being done to find our compatriot. All our services are being mobilized to that end, and no theory is ruled out. We are in constant contact with the Algerian authorities, who are cooperating and supporting our inquiry," the French foreign ministry said in a statement.
Gourdel, a mountain guide from the city of Nice who was visiting Algeria as a tourist, was kidnapped while on a hiking trip near the village of Ait Ouabane in the Kabylie mountain region, near the capital Algiers. According to reports he was traveling in a car along with two local Algerian guides when a group of masked gunmen stopped the vehicle, taking Gourdel captive and setting the two other men free.
The kidnapping follows a public call by an IS's spokesman for Muslims to kill random non-Muslims in revenge for western airstrikes against the group, which has been engaged in a bloody campaign to expand its territory and destroy non-Sunni Muslim communities in the region.
"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 entered into a coalition against the Islamic State, then rely upon Allah, and kill him in any manner or way however it may be," IS spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani urged.
"Smash his head with a rock, or slaughter him with a knife, or run him over with your car, or throw him down from a high place, or choke him, or poison him," he continued, going on to mock US President Barack Obama as being "a mule of the Jews."
After focusing military efforts in Iraq to blunt IS's advances there, coalition forces - including several Arab states - on Monday expanded their mission to Syria, conducting airstrikes in and around the jihadi group's de-facto capital Raqqa.