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Symbolbild Algerien Geiselnahme Islamischer Staat Franzose
Image: AFP/Getty Images

French national kidnapped

September 22, 2014

Officials in Paris have confirmed that a French citizen was kidnapped in Algeria. In a video from the captors, a man appears, saying he is the hostage, urging an end to French airstrikes against "IS" targets.


"A French national was kidnapped on Sunday in Algeria, in the region of Tizi Ouzou, while he was on holiday there," deputy Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexandre Georgini said in a statement on Monday.

In the aftermath of the announcement a video was posted on the Internet featuring the hostage.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius confirmed the authenticity of the video, saying the man in it was Herve Gourdel.

"The foreign affairs ministry confirmed, unfortunately, the authenticity of the video which carries the images of Herve Gourdel," Fabius told reporters in New York, calling it an "extremely critical" situation.

Gourdel, who in the video gives his name, age and date of birth, said he had arrived in Algeria on September 20 and was taken hostage the next day. An Algerian group that has pledged allegiance to the self-proclaimed "Islamic State" (IS), called Jund al-Khilifa (Caliphate Soldiers), published the recording.

"I am in the hands of Jund al-Khilifa, an Algerian armed group. This armed group is asking me to ask you [President Francois Hollande], to not intervene in Iraq," Gourdel says. "They are holding me as a hostage and I ask you Mr. President to do everything to get me out of this bad situation and I thank you."

Gourdel is pictured squatting on the ground flanked by two hooded men clutching assault rifles.

Symbolbild Algerien Geiselnahme Islamischer Staat Franzose
Algeria's military has fought against Islamist insurgents for yearsImage: picture-alliance/AP

Response to airstrikes?

France launched its first airstrikes against IS targets in Iraq on Friday; Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius reiterated on Monday that Paris had no intention of carrying out attacks over Syria. After joining the military efforts against IS in Iraq, France raised the threat level at 30 of its embassies across the Middle East and Africa.

Earlier on Monday, a spokesman for IS had urged followers to attack citizens of the United States and other countries taking part in military action against the group - mentioning France "especially." Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve had said this threat would not cause a change of policy in France.

"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. "France is not afraid because it is prepared to respond to their threats."

IS fighters have seized large parts of Iraq and Syria, declaring a "caliphate" in its territory; the Algerian group's name appears to be a reference to this. Al Qaeda's North African branch, AQIM, and other groups are still active in the former French colony.

msh/mkg (AP, Reuters)

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