Croatian FM heads to Egypt as IS threatens to execute kidnapped national

AFP , Thursday 6 Aug 2015

Egypt's affiliate of the Islamic State group threatened Wednesday to execute a Croatian abducted in Cairo last month within 48 hours if Muslim women jailed in Egypt are not freed

Tomislav Salopek
Tomislav Salopek (Photo: Tomislav Salopek Facebook page)

Croatia's Foreign Minister Vesna Pusic will travel to Cairo Thursday, according to a statement by the Croatian ministry, after Egypt's affiliate of the Islamic State (IS) group threatened in a video Wednesday to execute a kidnapped Croatian national.

"Pusic is in contact with the Egyptian foreign minister and in agreement with him and his recommendations she will go to Cairo," the statement said.

Egypt's affiliate of the Islamic State group threatened Wednesday to execute the Croatian kidnapped in Cairo last month within 48 hours if Muslim women jailed in Egypt are not freed.

The man is the first foreigner to be abducted and threatened with death by militants in Egypt since an Islamist insurgency erupted two years ago.

In a video posted online by the jihadists, the Croatian identifies himself as Tomislav Salopek working for French geoscience company CGG, and appears kneeling at the feet of a hooded man holding a knife.

Reading from a sheet of paper, he says he will be executed within 48 hours if Egypt's government fails to release Muslim women held in prisons.

Salopek, wearing an orange jumpsuit, did not say when the countdown began.

He said he was abducted 22 July by the Sinai Province group, Egypt's Islamic State affiliate based in the Sinai Peninsula.

In Zagreb, the foreign ministry said the "Croatian government ... is doing its best to solve as soon as possible the difficult situation in which the Croatian citizen T S is," identifying the hostage only with his initials.

"Considering the very difficult and sensitive circumstances and in order not to make a difficult situation worse, we are not able to provide more detailed information at this moment."

Formerly known as Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis, the group changed its name when it pledged allegiance to IS last November.

CGG confirmed that the man in the video was one of its "sub-contracted staff working on a land acquisition seismic crew" and that he had been "kidnapped on 22 July while in transit in Cairo."

"He is the hostage appearing on the video released today by the Sinai Province of Islamic State," it said, without naming him.

Salopek, a father of two, is the first foreigner to face execution by militants in Egypt. In December, Sinai Province claimed it had killed in August an American working for petroleum company Apache.

In July, IS said it was behind a car bomb attack targeting the Italian consulate in Cairo — the first such attack against a foreign mission in Egypt since jihadists began their insurgency following the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi and a subsequent crackdown on Islamists.

In February, IS released a video showing the beheadings of 21 Coptic Christians, all but one of them Egyptians, in neighbouring Libya.

That massacre prompted air strikes by Cairo targeting IS positions in Libya.

The threat to execute Salopek comes ahead of Thursday's inauguration of the new Suez Canal channel in the port city of Ismailia, with hundreds of foreign dignitaries, including French President Francois Hollande, due to attend. 

* This story was edited by Ahram Online.

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