The Egypt affiliate of ISIS, the Islamic extremist group, has just has released photographic evidence that purports to show the execution of a Croatian hostage named Tomislav Salopek.
Croatian PM Zoran Milanovic said on Wednesday afternoon he was unable to confirm that a Croatian citizen held by Islamic State in Egypt had been killed.
The caption says the Croatian, a father of two aged about 30, was killed “for his country’s participation in the war against Islamic State”.
Salopek works for Ardiseis Egypy, a unit of CGG which specialises in oil and gas geology.
The abduction has rattled foreigners working for multinational companies and underscored the jihadists’ reach despite a massive military campaign against the ISIS.
The terrorist group reportedly circulated photos of Tomislav Salopek’s body on social media this week, days after demanding that Muslim female prisoners being held in Egypt be released in exchange for Salopek’s safe return.
Since then there has been no contact from the kidnappers and Egyptian security forces have launched an extensive search for Salopek.
ISIL, a Sunni militant group that controls vast parts of Syria and Iraq, has beheaded hundreds of its hostages, including foreign journalists and contractors, over the past year.
If confirmed, the killing would mark a fresh challenge to Egypt’s economy and the country’s effort to stem a rising Islamist insurgency after attacks that have targeted major tourist sites and military outposts.
In Salopek’s hometown of Vrpolje in Croatia, a family representative and close friend has come out of their home on Wednesday evening to tell media waiting outside that everyone is deeply stricken and in shock over the tragic news.
Citing the Foreign Ministry, Reuters reported that the 31-year-old man, identified only as T.S., was kidnapped on Wednesday morning when his vehicle was stopped by armed men.
In the video, he said that the group wants to substitute him for the Muslim women arrested in Egyptian prisons.
On July 11, Sinai Province took credit for the bombing of the Italian consulate in Cairo, its first claim of attack on a diplomatic mission.
“This is already an insular moment for Egypt and it’s quite possible that the country could be seen as not only an inhospitable environment for foreigners, but a unsafe one-and that is [Sinai Province’s] intention”, said Michael Hanna, an Egypt analyst with the Century Foundation in New York.
His remarks were posted on the Foreign Ministry’s Facebook account.
Sisi was the former army chief who overthrew Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013, setting up a police crackdown on his followers that killed more than 1,000 protesters.
Last December, the affiliate claimed responsibility for the killing of an American oil worker with Texas-based energy company Apache Corp.