French media on Monday reported that two Frenchmen were believed to be among a group of executioners in a new Islamic State group video that shows the beheading of US aid worker Peter Kassig and other victims said to be Syrian soldiers, reports FRANCE 24.
The 15-minute video, released on Sunday by the Sunni Muslim extremist group waging war in large swaths of Syria and Iraq, showed a masked militant standing over the severed head of a man it said was Kassig, a former US Army Ranger-turned aid worker who was captured in Syria last year.
It also featured a group of at least a dozen other prisoners who captors claimed were Syrian fighter pilots and army officers. In the video, each of the victims is being held by an unmasked, uniformed member of the Islamic State (IS) group, sometimes referred to as ISIS or ISIL.
Jihadists are shown marching the captive men past a box of long military knives, each taking one as he passed, then forcing them to kneel in a line and decapitating them. The high-definition video includes close-ups of the extremists.
A few French news outlets on Monday identified one of the executioners in the video as Abou Abdallah Al-Faransi, a Frenchman whose real given name is Maxime.
“He has been seen in several other IS propaganda videos,” said Wassim Nasr, a FRANCE 24 journalist and specialist in jihadist movements. “[Maxime] is known to have converted to Islam at the age of 17, but he has no prior criminal record in France, like around 50 percent of foreigners who have joined the group.”
Radio France Internationale (RFI), FRANCE 24's sister station, said that a second Frenchman was among the video’s executioners.
“Several sources within the Islamic State group confirmed to RFI that two Frenchmen appear in the video as they decapitate two Syrian soldiers,” the radio station said. “One source told RFI that these videos serve two purposes. To recruit new members and terrorise the group’s enemies.”
US President Barrack Obama called Kassig's killing “an act of pure evil” and said the Islamic State group “revels in the slaughter of innocents, including Muslims, and is bent only on sowing death and destruction.”
The jihadist Maxime first made headlines in France in July after giving a long interview to the BFM TV news channel. At the time, the 22-year-old native of the region of Normandy said he had easily travelled to Syria in the summer of 2013.
“He has an atypical profile, everyone who knew him in France remembers him as a kind young man,” said BFM TV journalist Julien Martin.
Maxime also told BFM that he attended a Koranic school in Mauritania, adding that first he wanted to wage jihad in Mali, but then he decided to travel to Syria.