PARIS (AFP) – President Francois Hollande vowed not to give in to ex-tremists who have threatened to kill a French hostage in Algeria, as troops raced against time to find him.
Algerian military planes were combing the mountainous eastern Tizi Ouzou region backing elite anti-terrorist units on the ground in a desperate bid to find 55-year-old Herve Gourdel, a security source said.
The kidnapping was claimed by Jund al-Khilifa (Soldiers of the Cali-phate) – a group linked to Islamic State extremists – that has vowed to kill the hostage by Tuesday night if Paris did not stop air strikes in Iraq.
As the deadline loomed, some 20 truckloads of paratroopers also joined the search, a witness said, and police set up roadblocks along the highway that snakes through the mountains.
“As grave as this situation is, we will not give in to any blackmail, any pressure, any ultimatum, no matter how odious, how despicable,” Hol-lande said in New York, where he is due to attend the annual UN General Assembly.
Young demonstrators hold posters reading ‘Supporting Herve Gourdel’ during a walk in support of the French mountain guide who was seized while trekking in the rugged, heavily forested Kabylie area, where al-Qaeda is active, in Saint-Martin-Vesubie, southeastern France – AFP
“What is at stake here is our li-berty, our security and sovereignty. No terrorist group can influence the will, position or freedom of France,” he added.