A splinter group from al-Qaida’s North African branch has kidnapped a French citizen and announced on Monday that it will kill him unless France ends its participation in air strikes against the Islamic State group in Iraq.
In a video that appeared on social media, a masked member of a group calling itself Jund al-Khilafah, or Soldiers of the Caliphate, warned French President Francois Hollande that it would murder the hostage if France doesn’t end its military actions against the Islamic State group in the next 24 hours.
The group said it was answering a call by IS spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani to attack Americans and Europeans.
French President Francois Hollande spoke with Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal by phone, the French leader’s office said in a statement, emphasizing the “total cooperation” between France and Algeria to try to find and free the Frenchman. It said authorities in the two countries were in constant contact.
French forces joined the U.S. on Sept. 19 in carrying out airstrikes against forces from the Islamic State group which have overrun large swathes of Syria and Iraq.
The Frenchman appeared in the video flanked by two armed masked men and said he was taken hostage by the group on Sunday and reiterated its demands that French airstrikes end.
The Jund al-Khilafah group broke away from al-Qaida’s North African branch in recent weeks and has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, which has emerged as a brutal rival to al-Qaida.
Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb has remained loyal to the central al-Qaida movement, led by Egyptian Ayman al-Zawahri and located along the Afghan-Pakistani border.