Islamic State’s (IS) Egyptian affiliate released a video on Wednesday threatening to kill a Croatian hostage in 48 hours if Muslim women aren’t released from Egypt’s jails.
The authenticity of the video, which was circulated on social media, could not be verified by the Los Angeles Times.
But the French company CGG, which works in the oil and gas sector and has an office in Cairo, told Reuters news agency that one of its subcontractors was kidnapped in Cairo on July 22 and that he is the captive featured in the video.
If confirmed, this would be the first known video of a Western hostage held by militants describing themselves as Egypt’s Sinai Province, a troubling development for a country struggling to rebuild its tourism industry after years of unrest.
Egyptian officials did not immediately comment on the video, which was released the day before the country plans to unveil an $8.5-billion extension of the Suez Canal. The government had hoped that the event would show that Egypt is recovering from the turmoil that has battered its economy since the 2011 uprising that toppled former strongman Hosni Mubarak.
In the video, titled “A Message to the Egyptian Government,” a man in a tan jumpsuit kneels in the sand in front of a masked militant dressed in combat fatigues and holding a knife.
Reading from what appears to be a notebook, the man identifies himself as Tomislav Salopek, a 30-year-old Croatian with a wife and two children. He says he works for CGG and was kidnapped on July 22.
“They want to substitute me for the Muslim womans arrested in Egyptian prisons,” the man says in awkward English.
“This matter have to be achieved before 48 hours from now. If not, the soldiers of Wilayat Sinai will kill me,” he adds, using the group’s Arabic name.
He appears to be referring to women arrested in a sweeping government crackdown after Egypt’s Islamist President Mohammed Morsi was deposed two years ago in a popularly supported military coup.
Last month Croatia’s Foreign Ministry said that one of its nationals with the same initials as Salopek had been seized in Cairo on July 22 while on the way to work.
“The Croatian government is doing everything possible to resolve this difficult situation,” it said in a brief statement read on state television.
This is not the first time that militants claiming allegiance to Islamic State have taken aim at foreign interests in Egypt. Last month the Italian Consulate in Cairo was heavily damaged in a bombing that killed one person.
But the video purporting to show a Western hostage marks an escalation by the Egyptian group, which had previously focused many of its most high-profile attacks on Egypt’s military and security establishments.
Other recent attacks include the June 29 assassination of Egypt’s prosecutor general, Hisham Barakat, in a car bombing in Cairo.
Two days later, militants unleashed multiple strikes against police and military positions in the northern Sinai Peninsula. Egypt’s military said 21 troops and more than 100 militants were killed in the daylong fighting, though unofficial accounts at the time suggested the military toll could be higher.
Image credits: MILITANT WEBSITE VIA AP