Latest beheading video tries to portray global base of jihadists
PARIS — The cold-eyed terrorists lined up behind their victims in the latest Islamic State video appear to hail from outside the Middle East, including one from France and possibly two from Britain, as the group tries to show a global reach.
The grisly video — clearly aimed at a Western audience — lingers as much on the faces of the camouflaged terrorists as the men who are beheaded. The victims include American aid worker Peter Kassig and more than a dozen Syrian soldiers.
The images of the Islamic State terrorists, who are shown one by one in close-up, allowed authorities to identify one of them Monday as a 22-year-old Frenchman who converted to radical Islam.
Maxime Hauchard has been on the radar of French authorities since 2011, when he took two trips to Mauritania to attend a Quranic school, Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said. The prosecutor said investigators were trying to determine whether another Frenchman is in the video.
President Obama confirmed Kassig’s slaying when the United States reviewed the video.
The overwhelming majority of Islamic State fighters are from the Mideast, but the terrorist group is trying to cement its claim on an Islamic empire straddling Iraq and Syria. Europe appears to be a fertile ground to find supporters, with officials saying thousands of young Europeans have headed off to jihad. More than 1,000 people in France alone are under surveillance for suspected plans to join the terrorists, officials said.
In the video released Sunday, some of the knife-wielding terrorists standing behind their kneeling victims had distinctly Asian features. Another whose face was hooded had the familiar London accent of the jihadi who appeared in beheading videos with American hostages James Foley and Steven Sotloff, and with British hostages David Haines and Alan Henning.
There were indications that a Welsh medical student may be the man standing next to Hauchard.
“It’s quite transparent that IS is trying to exaggerate its base of support,” said Charlie Winter, a researcher at the Quilliam Foundation in London. “They are trying to show that Muslims from all over the world are protecting their Syrian brethren and their Iraqi brethren.”
European officials are trying just as furiously to counter that message.
“I call solemnly and seriously on all our citizens, and notably our young people who are the primary target of the terrorist propaganda, to open your eyes to the terrible reality of the actions of Daesh,” said French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, using an Arabic acronym for the Islamic State group. “These are criminals that are building a system of barbarity.”
Hauchard gave an interview to France’s BFM television in July, telling the network he had helped to capture Mosul, the Iraqi city whose fall eventually prompted the United States to resume military operations in Iraq.
“We’re waiting for death,” Hauchard said at the time.
“My objective is to be a martyr.”
A man from Wales, Ahmed Muthana, said he thinks he saw his son, 20-year-old Nasser Muthana, in the latest video, and Winter confirmed the likeness.