PARIS (AFP/REUTERS) – France’s prime minister Tuesday vowed there would be “no discussion, no negotiation” with an Algerian group linked to Islamic State radical militants that have claimed the kidnapping of a French citizen and stressed Paris would continue air strikes on the extremists.
Manuel Valls told French radio there would be “no discussion, no negotiation and we will never give in to blackmail. Even if we are of course very worried after the authentication of this video.”
The group, Jund al-Khilifa (Soldiers of the Caliphate), promised in a video message to kill the hostage, Herve Pierre Gourdel, within 24 hours unless France stopped its air strikes against the IS in Iraq.
“If we give in, if we retreat an inch, we will be handing them victory,” Valls told Europe 1 radio while on a visit to Germany.
The French national was kidnapped in eastern Algeria on Sunday, France’s foreign ministry said, and his kidnappers issued a video threatening to kill him if Paris did not halt its intervention in Iraq.
In New York, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said the taking of a French hostage would not deter French participation in a US-led coalition of nations against Islamic State militants.
“We will do everything we can to liberate hostages,” Fabius, in New York for UN General Assembly, told reporters. “But a terrorist group cannot change France’s position.”
“A French national was kidnapped on Sunday in Algeria, in the region of Tizi Ouzou, while he was on holiday there,” deputy Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexandre Georgini said in a statement.
Citing an interior ministry statement, Algeria’s state news agency APS said the Frenchman, who it described as a mountain guide, had been taken in the village of Ait Ouabane when he was travelling in a vehicle with some Algerian nationals.
France, which on Monday raised the threat level at 30 of its embassies across the Middle East and Africa, launched its first air strikes targeting Islamic State targets in Iraq on Friday.
It has said all must be done to rid the region of the group.
President Francois Hollande said in a statement he had spoken to Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal and that the two countries were cooperating at all levels to find and liberate the hostage.
Western diplomats and intelligence sources say they believe there are less than 10 hostages still held by Islamic State. The group has recently killed two Americans, James Foley and Steven Sotloff, and one Briton, David Haines, and threatened to kill another Briton, Alan Henning.
The kidnapping was one of the first abductions of a foreigner by militants in Algeria since the North African country ended its decade-long war with radical fighters in the 1990s.
The video footage was confirmed as authentic by the French government, and came after IS issued a statement urging Muslims to kill Westerners whose nations have joined a campaign to battle the militant group.
On Friday, France conducted its first air strikes in Iraq but has said it will not carry out such operations in Syria.
“These strikes, this engagement will of course continue,” promised Valls.
“France is a great nation which completely lives up to its responsibilities,” added the prime minister.
The country “cannot be scared of those who threaten it in this way,” he said, but added: “I want to convince our compatriots … that we have never been up against such a threat, in France and in Europe.”