French hostage beheaded by Islamist militants in Algeria, according to video

The gruesome video appeared online Wednesday after Herve Gourdel was taken hostage Sunday.

Patrice Massante/REUTERS
A portrait of mountain guide of Frenchman Herve Gourdel hangs near a French flag outside the town hall in Saint-Martin-Vesubie, September 24, 2014. Algerian militants have released a video that appears to show them beheading Gourdel who was kidnapped on Sunday in what the group said was a response to France's action against Islamic State militants in Iraq.

Algerian extremists allied with the Islamic State group have decapitated a French hostage after France carried out airstrikes in Iraq, according to a video that appeared online Wednesday.

French President Francois Hollande condemned the killing of Herve Gourdel and said France would continue its fight against the Islamic State group, which are Sunni militants that have taken over large swaths of Iraq and Syria.

"Herve Gourdel is dead because he is the representative of a people – ours – that defends human dignity against barbarity," Hollande said, speaking along the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting in New York. "My determination is total and this attack only reinforces it. We will continue to fight terrorism everywhere."

A group calling itself Jund al-Khilafah, or Soldiers of the Caliphate, had said they would kill the French mountaineer after abducting him Sunday unless France ended its airstrikes against Islamic State fighters in Iraq within 24 hours.

France started airstrikes in Iraq on Friday, the first country to join the US military campaign against Islamic State fighters there.

The killing of a hostage represents a departure for radical Islamic groups in Algeria, which in the past decade have made millions off ransoming hostages. France is also known for paying ransoms, though several hostages have died in the past at the hands of their captors.

In the video, masked gunmen from the newly formed group that split away from Al Qaeda's North Africa branch stood over a kneeling Gourdel. They pledged their allegiance to the leader of the Islamic State group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and said they were fighting his enemies. They added they were following his instructions to attack the French.

The video showed the captive pushed to the ground and blindfolded before he was beheaded.

Islamic extremists have long singled out France as a special target for multiple reasons: the French military campaign against Al Qaeda-linked militants in Mali, the French involvement in the NATO force in Afghanistan and French laws banning the Muslim face veil in public and banning Muslim headscarves in public buildings.

Nearly 1,000 French radicals have joined or are trying to join the Islamic State group in Syria and in Iraq – more than the number of fighters from any other Western country. French authorities are particularly concerned that they will return and stage attacks at home.

The video resembled those showing the beheadings of two American journalists and a British aid worker in recent weeks, but instead of starting with clips of President Barack Obama speaking, it showed Hollande.

The terrorism watchdog SITE Intelligence Group said the video had been posted on the social networking site Twitter. It was briefly available on YouTube before being taken down.

"Our values are at stake," French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said Wednesday after hearing about the video.

Gourdel – a 55-year-old mountaineering guide from Nice – was seized in the Djura Djura mountains of northern Algeria on Sunday during a hiking trip. His Algerian companions were released. On his Facebook page he had expressed his excitement about his camping trip and said he was looking forward to being shown around for a change, instead of being the guide.

The remote mountainous region, riddled with steep valleys and deep caves, however, is also one of the last strongholds of Islamist extremists in northern Algeria.

Algerian forces unleashed a massive search for Gourdel, sending in helicopters and special forces to comb the region.

According to a presidential aide, Hollande has spoken with his family. Gourdel's hometown in southern France is planning a vigil Thursday at the mountaineering office where he worked.

The head of a leading French Muslim group, Dalil Boubakeur expressed horror at the "this barbaric crime," condemning it "with the utmost energy." The group has called for imams to denounce the Islamic State group's practices.

Algeria has been fighting Islamic extremists since the 1990s. In recent years they had been largely confined to a few mountainous areas, where they have concentrated on attacking soldiers and police while leaving civilians alone.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to French hostage beheaded by Islamist militants in Algeria, according to video
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today