Updated at 2:30 p.m. ET
French President Francois Hollande announced the “assassination” of a hostage seized over the weekend in Algeria by a group said to be affiliated with the self-described Islamic State. The remarks by Hollande, speaking at the U.N. General Assembly, confirm the apparent beheading of French mountain guide Herve Gourdel that is shown in a video that surfaced earlier today.
“Our compatriot has been killed cruelly and in a cowardly way by a terrorist group. Herve Gourdel was assassinated because he was French,” Hollande said. “My determination is total, and this aggression only strengthens it. France will continue to fight terrorists everywhere. The operations against Islamic State will continue.”
NPR’s Eleanor Beardsley reports that the video was investigated by French intelligence to confirm its authenticity.
The Algerian group that calls itself Jund al-Khilafah, or the Soldiers of the Caliphate, is purportedly an offshoot of the self-declared Islamic State and had earlier threatened to kill the 55-year-old Gourdel unless France ended airstrikes against ISIS fighters in Iraq.
“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 militants in the video says in a statement read out moments before Gourdel is wrestled to the ground.
Eleanor says: “The video released is said to resemble those showing the apparent beheadings of two American journalists and a British aid worker in recent weeks.”
“The killing of Mr. Gourdel signals that the Islamic State’s practice of beheading Western captives for propaganda purposes has spread beyond the area it controls in Syria. Numerous smaller factions in the Middle East and elsewhere have pledged allegiance to the group.”