Oh, no. On Wednesday, it emerged that Algerian ISIS supporters have apparently beheaded Hervé Gourdel, a French hostage who was kidnapped Sunday. We know this because, like ISIS, the group released a video very much in the style of ISIS' execution tapes. Like Americans James Foley and Steven Sotloff and Briton David Haines, Gourdel was seemingly executed — though, it's important to note, the authenticity of the footage has not yet been officially verified. The video was first reported by the SITE Intelligence Group, a U.S. anti-jihadist monitoring organization.
Gourdel was a 55-year-old mountain guide from southern France who was captured in the Kabylie region of Algeria. His apparent execution came in response to French military invention against ISIS in the Middle East, specifically airstrikes in Iraq.
But the message was also directed at a distinctly different audience — ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who the Algerian militants apparently aimed to please with the graphic killing.
The Algerian group's name is Jund al-Khilafah, and in the video, the militants who appear onscreen pledge their loyalty to ISIS' cause, all while demonstrating a nearly identical level of brutality. According to a translation by ABC News, they said that they'd become "closer to Allah by killing this filthy Frenchman in defense of Allah’s religion," before telling al-Baghdadi:
We are with you … Here are your soldiers fighting those you fight and making peace with those you make peace with.
It's precisely the sort of copycat terrorist incident that has struck so much fear in various European nations. The U.K. in particular has grappled with these concerns, thanks to the startling reported numbers of passport-carrying citizens reportedly supporting al-Baghdadi's so-called Islamic State.
Gourdel's apparent killing means that yet another prominent world leader will now weather the pressure of how to respond. It's basically the quintessential problem posed by any terrorist organization that publicly slays a hostage. While the militants did so ostensibly to force French President Francois Hollande to pull back on airstrikes, there's just about zero chance of that actually working — Jund al-Khilafah threatened to kill Gourdel if strikes weren't halted in 24 hours, but Hollande refused, on the understandable grounds that it would validate their hostage-taking as a worthwhile strategy.
Now, however, he's faced with the same dilemma that President Obama and British PM David Cameron have been — what to say to your people and your nation when a citizen has been publicly murdered. Whatever he ultimately decides to do, this much seems clear — the tumult in the Middle East and across Europe is building, and threatening to bring down more innocent people in its wake.
Images: Herve Gourdel/Facebook