ISIS claims beheading of Croatian hostage in Egypt
CAIRO, Egypt – The Islamic State (ISIS) group claimed Wednesday, August 12, to have beheaded a Croatian hostage abducted in Egypt, posting a purported picture of the victim's body on ISIS-affiliated Twitter accounts.
Tomislav Salopek, was abducted last month west of the capital Cairo. The jihadists had issued a 48-hour deadline that ended last Friday threatening to kill him if Muslim women prisoners were not released from Egyptian jails.
The picture's authenticity could not be immediately verified.
His abduction and purported killing were unprecedented in Egypt, which is battling an ISIS insurgency in the eastern Sinai Peninsula.
State-run Croatian news agency HINA quoted a foreign ministry source as saying it "does not have confirmation that abducted Croatian citizen Tomislav Salopek has been killed".
The picture was posted on IS-affiliated Twitter accounts with the caption: "Execution of prisoner from Croatia -- which has participated in war on Islamic State after deadline ended."
Salopek, a 31-year-old father of two, had been working with French geoscience company CGG when abducted from a car roughly 22 kilometers (14 miles) west of Cairo, security sources told Agence France-Presse.
The abduction has rattled foreigners working for multinational companies and underscored the jihadists' reach, despite a massive military campaign against IS.
Egypt had said it was intensifying efforts to locate Salopek after ISIS released a video of him last Wednesday.
Cairo-based Al-Azhar, a prestigious Sunni Islam learning centre, condemned the beheading.
'A Satanic action'
"The killing of the Croatian hostage is a Satanic action that has nothing to do with religions and traditions," Al-Azhar said in a statement.
In the video, Salopek, kneeling next to a masked militant holding a knife, was forced to read a statement saying his captors would execute him in 48 hours if Cairo failed to release female prisoners, a key demand of Islamist militants over the past two years.
Salopek's abduction had been treated by police as a criminal kidnapping before the video emerged.
Although ISIS's Egyptian affiliate has killed hundreds of policemen and soldiers, the country had been spared the gruesome kidnappings and executions of foreigners conducted by IS in Iraq and Syria.
The group has in the past beheaded Bedouin in Sinai it accused of collaborating with the army.
The group's demand for the release of female prisoners appeared aimed at scoring propoganda points at the expense of the Islamist opposition in Egypt, which does not share the jihadists' tactics, an analyst said.
"This is a calculated propaganda move by them," said Mokhtar Awad, an expert on the group with the US-based think tank Centre for American Progress.
"The jihadists' message is: 'We are the ones who can deliver results. We are the ones who are serious about this. More importantly, we are putting it front and centre in our campaign'," he said.
In Egypt to work
Jihadists and their supporters have mocked the more mainstream Islamist opposition, which denies that it uses violence and has condemned militant attacks.
Salopek's father had appealed to the kidnappers to release him, and Croatian Foreign Minister Vesna Pusic had travelled to Cairo for emergency talks.
In his home town, neighbors described Salopek as a friendly young man who had gone to Egypt to earn a living.
Egypt, led by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, had been at pains to persuade international investors and companies that the country was safe after two years of violence and militant attacks.
Sisi was the former army chief who overthrew Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013, setting up a police crackdown on his followers that killed more than 1,000 protesters.
In Sinai, which borders Israel and the Palestinian Gaza Strip, militants have launched a brazen insurgency that appears unabated despite a sweeping army campaign.
But ISIS has managed to launch attacks outside Sinai only a few times.
The group claimed responsibility for a bombing last month targeting the Italian consulate in Cairo, in which a passer-by was killed.
And last December, the group claimed responsibility for the murder an American who worked for petroleum company Apache, also west of Cairo. – Rappler.com