CAIRO — Egyptian militants affiliated with the Islamic State extremist group have threatened to kill a Croatian hostage within 48 hours unless the Egyptian government releases female prisoners, according to a video released Wednesday.
It was the first time in a two-year-old campaign of violence against the government that the militants had kidnapped or threatened to execute a foreigner, raising new fears of more attacks.
Many analysts had warned that the Sinai jihadists might take aim at Westerners or Egypt’s Christian minority after they pledged their loyalty last fall to the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, and the video comes just two months after the militants’ first attempts to attack the crucial tourism industry.
In the video, a man who identifies himself as Tomislav Salopek, wearing a peach-colored jumpsuit and kneeling in the sand, addresses the camera. Speaking in English, he says that he is married with two children, works for a French company with a branch in Cairo and was abducted on July 22. A man wearing a camouflage uniform and ski mask stands behind him, holding a knife.
Mr. Salopek, a 30-year-old Croatian citizen, says that the militants want to “substitute” him with Muslim women in Egyptian prisons and adds that it needs to happen within 48 hours. “If not, the soldiers of Wilayat al-Sina will kill me,” he says, using the Arabic name of the militant group, which is also known as Sinai Province.
The footage resembles videos released by Islamic State militants in Iraq, Syria and Libya, a sign of possibly closer coordination between the Egyptian jihadists and militants abroad.
It presents a new challenge to President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi as he welcomes hundreds of foreign dignitaries for the inauguration of a new channel of the Suez Canal on Thursday, an event the government has promoted as a sign of Egypt’s prosperous future.
Insurgents who have been attacking the government since the military’s ouster of President Mohamed Morsi in 2013 have carried out a series of brazen assaults in recent months that show a growing sophistication and a willingness to broaden their targets to include civilians. Since late June, militants have assassinated the country’s top prosecutor, fired a missile at an Egyptian naval vessel and briefly occupied a town in the northern Sinai Peninsula.
Militants also attempted attacks near the Pyramids of Giza and the Karnak Temple at Luxor, Egypt’s most popular tourist destinations, in an ominous turn for the government, which depends heavily on the foreign currency generated by tourism.
The kidnapping of Mr. Salopek also suggested that workers at foreign companies are under threat. The Croatian government announced his kidnapping last month, without naming him, saying that one of its citizens had been abducted by unidentified armed men in Cairo while driving to work in a company car, The Associated Press reported at the time.
In the video, Mr. Salopek said he worked for CGG Ardiseis, a French company involved in the oil and gas industry.
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(via NY Times)