Algeria identifies suspects in Frenchman’s beheading

Prosecutors have sought an arrest warrant for the identified kidnappers and demanded an investigation

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Algeria has identified suspects in the kidnapping and beheading of French tourist Herve Gourdel, the justice minister said Tuesday, as the North Africa country widened its probe into the brutal execution.

Gourdel was seized on September 21 by Jund al-Khilifa, or “Soldiers of the Caliphate,” a group linked to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants, while trekking in a national park in eastern Algeria.

The 55-year-old mountain guide was beheaded, in a video posted online last Wednesday, after France rejected the kidnappers’ ultimatum to halt anti-ISIS air raids in Iraq.

“The preliminary investigation has identified certain members of the terrorist group that carried out this crime,” Tayeb Louh said on state television.

The investigation into Gourdel’s abduction and killing was handed over Sunday to a judge at an Algiers court specializing in terrorism and organized crime, the minister said.

Prosecutors have sought an arrest warrant for the identified kidnappers and demanded an investigation to determine the location where the video was posted online, said the minister.

A probe has also been ordered to identify other members of Jund al-Khilifa.

The beheading followed France’s rejection of the group’s 24-hour ultimatum to halt air raids in Iraq – part of a US-led campaign against ISIS.

It came after three other Western hostages – two US journalists and a British aid worker ¬– were beheaded by the militant group.

French jets carried out their first air strike against ISIS militants in Iraq on September 19, destroying a logistics depot.

Paris opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq but was one of the first to sign up for an active role in the US-led campaign against ISIS.

It has six Rafale fighter jets and just fewer than 1,000 soldiers based in the United Arab Emirates.

The abduction and execution of Gourdel sparked global condemnation and an outpouring of grief in his homeland.

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