A video has been released showing the beheading of a French hostage being held by a Algerian group affiliated with the Islamic State (IS).
Hervé Gourdel, 55, was being held by a group calling themselves Jund al-Khilafah, or Soldiers of the Caliphate. The group released a video two days ago saying it had kidnapped the French citizen while he was hiking in the heart of the Djurdjura National Park in Algeria. In the video a masked militant said Gourdel would die within 24-hours unless France halted its airstrikes on Iraq.
France rejected the group’s 24-hour ultimatum, with Hollande vowing the country would not be deterred from continuing its military action.
It begins with a clip of Hollande at a press conference where he announced strikes against IS in Iraq.
The video then shows Gourdel on his knees with his hands behind his back in front of four armed militants with covered-up faces.
The Frenchman briefly expresses his love for his family before one of the jihadists reads a speech in which he denounces the actions of the “French criminal crusaders” against Muslims in Algeria, Mali and Iraq.
The jihadist says the beheading is to “avenge the victims in Algeria… and support the caliphate” proclaimed by IS in Iraq and Syria.
French President Francois Hollande condemned the killing as a “cruel and cowardly” act, and said that French air strikes which began on IS targets in Iraq last week would continue.
Speaking at the UN general assembly, Mr Hollande said that Gourdel’s abduction and decapitation was a barbaric act of terrorism which presented a problem not only for the region but also for the world.
He said the fight against terrorism should know no borders and that France was now in mourning.
“It is not weakness that should be the response to terrorism but force,” he said.
Algeria’s army has found the body of French hiker Hervé Gourdel, security sources and Algerian media said on Thursday, nearly four months after he was taken hostage and beheaded by Islamist militants.
The army had mobilized 3,000 troops to find the 55-year-old mountain guide’s body and launched a new search operation on Wednesday.
The search was headed by an elite army unit and aided by sniffer dogs.
Gourdel’s body was found buried without the head in Akbil, the town where he was abducted.
Police experts arrived at the burial site, located in a forested area known as Tabounecht Abu Youssef, that had been rigged with explosives, which a local resident said was aimed at “causing casualties among the searchers.”
Forensic experts were present to perform tests to formally identify the body, which was exhumed in the presence of Algeria’s senior terrorism prosecutor and the judge presiding over Gourdel’s case.
Army sources said Gourdel’s body was found based on information from one of two men arrested in connection with the case.
Abdelmalek Gouri, the man who claimed responsibility for Mr Gourdel’s killing, was killed in an Algerian army attack in December.