Second French citizen in Isil execution video identified
A second Frenchman was identified Wednesday after appearing unmasked in a grisly execution video among jihadists of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isil), many of whom are believed to be Western fighters.
As European countries scrambled to identify possible suspects in the execution of 18 Syrian prisoners and Peter Kassig, the American aid worker, the usually secure Iraqi Kurdish capital of Arbil was hit by a suicide bombing that left four people dead.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility but suicide bombings are usually carried out by Sunni extremists in Iraq, including a series of blasts claimed by the Islamic State jihadist group in recent weeks.
Isil has carried out widespread atrocities since seizing control of large parts of Iraq and Syria, executing five Western hostages and hundreds of locals.
A global outpouring of revulsion met the latest video released by the group on Sunday.
Several of the jihadists appeared unmasked in the video and one foreigner, 22-year-old Maxime Hauchard from Normandy in northern France, was quickly identified by French prosecutors.
He is one of several young French nationals from a middle class, atheist or Catholic background to have converted to radical Islam and gone to fight in Syria, making a profile of potential jihadists nearly impossible to pin down, experts say.
A source close to the French investigation on Wednesday identified a second national as 22-year-old Mickael Dos Santos from an eastern Paris suburb, who goes by the name of Abu Othman.
Dos Santos, of Portuguese origin but born in the French riverside town of Champigny-sur-Marne, is believed to have left for Syria in the autumn of 2013.
French intelligence was made aware of him after he published an online video in October calling for “all brothers living in France” to “kill any civilian” in retaliation for airstrikes carried out by Paris against Isil in Iraq.
“The man concerned is known for his terrorist involvement in Syria and his violent behaviour shown on social networks,” Prime Minister Manuel Valls said, without confirming his identity.
French authorities estimate around 1,000 nationals have taken part in the conflict, with 375 currently in the country.
Valls said “close to 50″ French people had been killed in Iraq and Syria.
“So we know the dangers and, sadly, we are not surprised to learn that French citizens or residents of France are found at the heart of these cells and taking part in this barbarity,” he added.
French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the country would send six Mirage fighter jets to Jordan to boost its air campaign against Isil.
Thousands of foreign fighters have flocked to join Isil, and experts say they are often among the most violent and brutal of the jihadists.
A British-accented militant nicknamed “Jihadi John” has been at the centre of previous IS beheading videos and appeared again in Sunday’s recording.
Other known foreign fighters are believed to have appeared in the video, including an Australian and a Dane.