France outraged after beheading of tourist

France was united in deep shock and anger on Thursday after a video was posted online showing the beheading of a French tourist in Algeria by jihadists. President François Hollande has called a crisis meeting on Thursday morning.

France outraged after beheading of tourist
Hervé Goudel, who was beheaded in Algeria this week after being taken hostage by jihadists. Photo: AFP

The beheading of French tourist Herve Gourdel by jihadists in Algeria drew in France and across the globe with Hollande blasting the "cruel and cowardly" killing.

Gourdel was seized on Sunday by IS-linked group Jund al-Khilifa, or"Soldiers of the Caliphate," while trekking in a national park in Algeria.

His beheading, which was posted online in a video, came after France rejected the kidnappers' 24-hour ultimatum to halt anti-IS air raids in Iraq.

Speaking at the United Nations on Wednesday Hollande said his country would stay the course in the fight against the jihadists.

'France will never give in'

"France is going through an ordeal through the murder of one of its citizens, but France will never give in to blackmail," he told the UN General Assembly.

“France will never give in to terrorism because it is our duty and above all, it is our honour,” said Hollande. "The fight against terrorism must continue and be stepped up," he said.

Hollande also called on French nationals living abroad to take extra caution to avoid being targeted in the same way as Gourdel.

The president was due to hold a crisis meeting on Thursday morning with ministers.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls turned to Twitter to express his outrage. "The support of the whole nation goes to Herve Gourdel's family. France will never give in," he wrote.

France’s interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve added: "We are in shock. This kind of act is barbaric in the extreme. France is not afraid, because France must not be afraid.”

Politicians from across all sides lined up to condemn the murder, all vowing that France must not waver in the face of terrorist threats.

Opposition MP Laurent Wauqiuez said: “Barbarity cannot defeat the values of democracy.”

Hervé Morin from centre right UDI party tweeted: “To Gourdel’s murderers: You are monsters and you are hideous.”

The National Front’s Louis Aliot said: “All my thoughts are with the family of our compatriot, cowardly executed by the enemies of our civilisation.”

There was also emotion in the south of France where Gourdel was from.

Country in mourning

Emotions ran high in his home town of Nice after news of the murderbroke, with flags in the city flying at half mast.

The deputy mayor of the French riviera resort, Christian Estrosi, visibly moved, told reporters that the country had been plunged into "national mourning" after he met with Gourdel's relatives late on Wednesday.

"It's a terrible shock" for the parents, he said, adding that the family had reacted to Gourdel's death "with dignity, anger and an unspeakable pain".

Nice resident Odile, who did not know Gourdel personally but lives near hisbuilding, said she was "disturbed" by his death. "I'm very surprised to see this horror that we are finding ourselves in," she said.

Further north in Saint-Martin-Vesubie, where Gourdel worked as a guide in the Mercantour national park, mayor Henri Guige said he was "shocked". "For me, this is a war in which they are attacking civilians, the innocent," he told AFP.

International condemnation

The news of Gourdel's beheading was also met with anger around the world where gloabal leaders expressed their resolve to continue to fight terrorism.

Voicing solidarity with France, US President Barack Obama said: "We stand with you and the French people as you grieve this terrible loss and as you stand up against terror in defence of liberty."

The European Union said the killing was "a further demonstration of the determination of groups affiliated to (the IS group) to pursue and extend their terror strategy".

No effort must be spared to hold the perpetrators accountable for the "barbaric murder", it added.

The Algerian government, which had mobilised troops to scour the mountains for Gourdel, condemned the "hateful" murder.

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French families sue government over children of jihadists stuck in Syria

The families of several children and wives of French jihadist fighters in Syria have filed lawsuits against France's top diplomat over his refusal to let them come to France.

French families sue government over children of jihadists stuck in Syria
Two detained French women who fled the Islamic State group's last pocket in Syria sit with their children . AFP

The suits, filed in July and September, accuse Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian of “failing to provide aid” to people in “danger” at camps operated by Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces in northeastern Syria.

The complaints were filed with the Court of Justice of the Republic (CJR), which hears cases over alleged misconduct by former or serving ministers.

It is the latest legal challenge to France's longstanding opposition to allowing the children and wives of suspected jihadists in Syria or Iraq to return home.

The government, which says it considers requests on a case-by-case basis only, has brought back just 17 children since March, many of them orphans.

Critics say the policy exposes innocent victims of the war, many of whom have suffered serious trauma during the fighting and coalition bombardments, to long-term psychological risks.

“The policy of 'case by case' keeps more than 200 children and their mothers exposed to inhumane and degrading treatment, and at risk of death,” the lawyers said

They note that Kurdish officials are also pressing European governments to repatriate citizens who went to fight for the Islamic State group in Syria, as well as their family members.

“It's a political choice not to save these children and mothers being held arbitrarily,” one of the lawyers, Marie Dose, told AFP.

Asked about the lawsuit, a foreign ministry spokeswoman said in a statement that France remained “fully mobilised so that each situation is handled with the children's interests in mind.”

“Our priority is to ensure the return of the most vulnerable orphan or isolated children,” she added.

A similar lawsuit was filed against France last May at the European Court of Human Rights, by the grandparents of two children stranded with their French jihadist mother in Syria.

The boy and girl, who were born in Syria, are among an estimated 500 children of French citizens who joined the Islamic State's so-called “caliphate” before the jihadists' last Syrian redoubt was overrun in March.