An Algerian jihadist group who abducted a French tourist says it has killed him after France refused to end its air strikes against Isil fighters in Iraq.
The group calling itself Jund al-Khilafah (Soldiers of the Caliphate) released a video titled "A Message with Blood to the French Government" that appears to show the beheading of Herve Gourdel, a 55-year-old mountaineering guide from Nice.
It begins with a clip of French President Francois Hollande before showing Mr Gourdel on his knees with his hands behind his back, surrounded by four armed and masked militants. One of the jihadis reads a speech in Arabic in which he denounces the intervention of the "French criminal crusaders" against Muslims in Algeria, Mali and Iraq. The group, which has pledged allegiance to Isil, abducted Mr Gourdel on Sunday while he was hiking with Algerian friends in the mountainous north eastern region of Kabylie, and a day later gave France a 24-hour deadline to stop the air
strikes which it began last week. "As grave as this situation is, we will not give in to any blackmail, any pressure, any ultimatum, no matter how odious, how despicable," Mr Hollande said at the United Nations in New York.
Hundreds of Algerian soldiers had been hunting for Mr Gourdel in the Kabylie region, where another jihadist group, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb has carried out deadly attacks this year. The French foreign ministry has urged French nationals living in or travelling to some 30 countries in Africa and the Middle East to exercise "utmost caution". Separately yesterday the wife of British hostage Alan Henning urged the Isil to release him after she received an audio message from her husband pleading for his life.
Barbara Henning called for the militant group to "open their hearts and minds" and said she had been told that a Sharia court had found her husband innocent of being a spy.
In a statement issued by the Foreign Office, she said:
"Islamic State continue to ignore our pleas to open dialogue.
"I have seen Muslims across the globe question Islamic State over Alan's fate. The voices of the people have spoken out loud and clear. He was working with Muslims to help the most vulnerable within Syria. Nothing has changed. He went to Syria to help his Muslim friends deliver much needed aid.
"We are at a loss why those leading Islamic State cannot open their hearts and minds to the facts surrounding Alan's imprisonment and why they continue to threaten his life.
"I have been told that he has been to a Sharia court and found innocent of being a spy and declared to be no threat."
Mr Henning, a former taxi driver from Salford, was kidnapped last December in Syria .. He is a 47-year-old aid worker. (© Daily Telegraph, London)