Thursday 14 November 2019

'Two groups' behind Croatian hostage's abduction in Egypt

A militant video purporting to show Croatian hostage Tomislav Salopek (Militant website/AP)
A militant video purporting to show Croatian hostage Tomislav Salopek (Militant website/AP)

Two groups were involved in the kidnapping of Croatian Tomislav Salopek, who was reportedly killed by Islamic State (IS), Croatia's foreign minister has said.

Speaking in the Croatian coastal town of Rijeka, Vesna Pusic said the group which kidnapped him requested money from the company Mr Salopek worked for.

Then contact was broken and on August 5 a video emerged showing Mr Salopek as a hostage of the IS branch in Egypt.

"No money request was made then but rather the release of Muslim women from Egyptian jails - which was a bad sign, as some 99% of the jailed women in Egypt are Muslim and the captors did not specify who they really wanted to be released," she said.

"The conclusion was that there is no specific request and that we were dealing with two different organisations. One that kidnapped him and the other that identified itself as the Islamic State."

Mr Salopek's killing, if confirmed, would be the first of a foreign captive in Egypt, where the government has been struggling to project an image of stability and revive the economy following years of unrest.

Mr Pusic said she has met representatives of other Croatian citizens working in Egypt and that they are considering stronger security measures for them, including the protection of the Egyptian army.

Authorities still have not confirmed Mr Salopek's killing and are continuing the search for him and his captors.

IS militants in the Middle East and North Africa have taken a number of civilians hostage in recent years.

Many European hostages have been released, reportedly in exchange for ransom, while citizens of the United States and Britain, which refuse to pay ransoms, have been killed. IS has released a number of graphic videos showing the beheading of hostages.

The IS radio station announced on Thursday that its Egyptian affiliate killed Salopek, the first word from the extremist group a day after a gruesome image of his beheading circulated online.

Al-Bayan said that "soldiers of the caliphate" killed Mr Salopek, "whose country is participating in the war against the Islamic State".

It said the killing came after a deadline passed for "the renegade Egyptian government" to meet his captors' demands to free jailed women.

PA Media

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