Monday,24 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1258, (13 - 19 August 2015)
Monday,24 September, 2018
Issue 1258, (13 - 19 August 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Croatian man’s fate unknown

A still photo allegedly of the decapitated body of a Croatian man abducted outside Cairo by an Islamic State affiliate was circulated Wednesday, but his death is not officially confirmed reports Doaa El-Bey

Al-Ahram Weekly

The IS affiliate based in Sinai, published a still photo on Wednesday claiming to be the beheaded body of Croatian national Tomislav Salopek, 31, but there is no official confirmation of his death. The photo included a caption that stated: "Killing of the Croatian hostage due to his country's participation in the war against IS, after the deadline expired". The photo, also distributed on Twitter, shows a decapitated body in what appears to be the desert, beside a knife driven into the sand and the black banner used by IS.

Egypt Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri called Croatian Minister of Foreign and European Affairs Vesna Pusic to stress there is no confirmation that Salopek is dead, and that the search for him is still ongoing, according to Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid. After the circulation of the picture, Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic said he fears the worst but could not confirm Salopek has been beheaded by militants.

"We saw the news online but are currently verifying the information,” said a spokesman for the Egyptian Interior Ministry. “If we confirm that it is indeed true, we will inform the media in a statement."

Since the kidnapping last month, the Foreign Ministry has “spared no effort” trying to locate the whereabouts of Salopek, who worked for a French company in Cairo. "Terrorism is a heinous crime the whole world is suffering from,” Abu Zeid on Sunday. “Terrorism has no religion or country. We should all unite to combat it.” Abu Zeid was commenting on Salopek’s abduction on a road outside Cairo by Sinai Province jihadists.

Salopek, 31, had been working for a French company in Cairo. During the kidnapping Salopek’s driver was asked to leave the car that then left for an unknown destination leaving him unharmed.

Subsequently, Salopek appeared in a video released on the Internet earlier this month kneeling next to a masked militant holding a knife. He read a statement in English to the effect that his captors would execute him within 48 hours if Egypt’s government did not release female prisoners, a key demand of Islamist militants over the last two years.

The video did not specify when the 48 hours would end, but more than 48 hours have now passed since it was put online. No word has appeared on whether the execution has been carried out.

Salopek said in the video, released one day before the opening of the New Suez Canal and entitled “A Message to the Egyptian Government,” that he had been kidnapped on 22 July by IS.

One diplomat who preferred to remain anonymous said that the abduction did not represent a threat to foreigners in Egypt. “It is meant to embarrass the Egyptian government at a time when various heads of state and top officials are taking part in the New Suez Canal ceremony,” he said.

The video contained a message to the Egyptian government, and in it “the militant groups want to say that they are still present and are capable of terrorising us despite the massive military campaign launched against them,” the diplomat explained.

Every effort has been made to secure the release of Salopek, and earlier this week Salopek’s father appealed to the kidnappers to free his son.

“I am asking the people who hold my son to let him return to his family because his motivation in going to your country was simply to earn enough money to feed his children and nothing else,” Zlatko Salopek told news agencies at the family home in eastern Croatia.

Meanwhile, Pusic travelled to Cairo for emergency talks with her Egyptian counterpart Shoukri last Friday. After their meeting, a Foreign Ministry statement quoted Shoukri as saying that “we will not spare any effort to find the hostage and guarantee his security.”

“The Egyptian authorities are making intensive efforts to try to identify the whereabouts of the hostage,” he said.

Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic said she intended to discuss the matter with President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi by telephone. “Rest assured that we will do everything in our power to resolve this,” she was quoted by local Croatian media as saying.

IS affiliates, responsible for the kidnapping, has carried out several attacks against the army in since the overthrow of former president Mohamed Morsi in the 30 June Revolution.

The government has clamped down  terrorist groups since the 30 June Revolution, and thousands of people, mostly Islamists, have been jailed.

The army has also launched campaigns against the extremist groups in Sinai, though thus far without definitive success. In December, the IS group claimed responsibility for the murder of a US national working for the petroleum company Apache outside Cairo.

Last month, the group said it was behind a car bombing at the Italian consulate in Cairo, the first such attack against a foreign mission in Egypt since the militants began their campaign of terrorism.

Although the government crackdown on the groups started two years ago, Egypt has up to now been spared the IS-style hostage-taking of foreigners and the horrific killings carried out by terrorists in Syria and Libya.

In February, IS released a video showing the beheading of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians in neighbouring Libya, prompting air-strikes by Cairo against IS targets in the country.

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