A newly established al Qaeda splinter group in Algeria loyal to the Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the abduction of a French national in a video released Monday, according to media reports.
In the video, which reportedly shows 55-year-old Hervé Gourdel flanked by masked militants claiming to be members of the Jound al Khilafa, or “Soldiers of the caliphate,” the abductors say that they will execute Gourdel if the French “assault on the Islamic State” is not stopped in the next 24 hours. France had, on Friday, conducted its first airstrikes in northeastern Iraq, targeting the Islamic State group, formerly known as ISIS. The U.S. began bombing ISIS strongholds in Syria Monday night.
The news of the kidnapping comes just hours after the Islamic State group urged its members to target westerners, including French and American citizens.
“Everything is being done to find our compatriot. All our services are being mobilized to that end, and no theory is ruled out. We are in constant contact with the Algerian authorities, who are cooperating and supporting our inquiry,” the French foreign ministry said, according to media reports.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius on Monday, while confirming the authenticity of the video, said: "We will do everything we can to liberate hostages... but a terrorist group cannot change France's position,” according to a BBC report.
Gourdel, who is reportedly a mountain guide and photographer from Nice, was abducted while hiking near the mountainous region of Kabylie in northern Algeria, The Guardian reported.
Jound al Khilafa -- the group that is allegedly involved in the abduction -- is headed by Gouri Abdelmalek, a former regional commander of the al Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM. The group broke away from AQIM last week after accusing it of “deviating from the true path.”