Frenchman confirmed in Isis killer video

French prosecutors on Monday confirmed that a French national can be seen among the Isis militants who beheaded at least 18 Syrian soldiers in a gruesome video that appeared online at the weekend and which also claimed the killing of US aid worker Peter Kassig.

Frenchman confirmed in Isis killer video
A French national could be among the Isis militants in a video that also claims the killing of US aid worker Peter Kassig (pictured). Photo: Handout / Kassig family/AFP

"Circumstantial evidence confirms the involvement of a Frenchman in the decapitation of Syrian prisoners shown in an Islamic State video released on Sunday," the prosecutor's office in Paris said. 

In the graphic 16-minute-long video that was posted online on Sunday, the Islamist group shows the beheading of at least 18 Syrian soldiers as well as the severed head of 26-year-old US aid worker Peter Kassig who was abducted in Syria on October 1st, 2013. US President Barack Obama confirmed Kassig's death later on Sunday, calling it "an act of pure evil".

Earlier Monday, French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve had said there was "a very strong probability that a French citizen was directly involved in these despicable crimes".

The minister identified the man as 22-year-old Maxime Hauchar from Normandy in northwestern France, adding that the suspect "left for Syria in August 2013 after a short stay in Mauritania in 2012".

An intelligence source told AFP that agents are now trying to verify whether a second French national also took part in the beheadings.

Hauchard, who according to French daily Le Figaro goes under the name of Abou Abdallah Al Faransi which means "the Frenchman" in Arabic, participated in a BFM TV news report in July in which he described how he had converted to Islam at the age of 17 after learning about the religion by watching videos online. In the news report he said he travelled to Syria on his own via Turkey, ending up in Raqqa, which is now the ISIS group's stronghold in Syria.

In the BFMTV interview, Hauchard said he was currently involved in a special mission in which he would be prepared to die as a martyr.

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France charges jihadi with murder in IS territory

France on Friday charged a man with murder days after his expulsion from Turkey, holding him in custody over crimes alleged to have taken place in jihadist-controlled areas of Iraq and Syria.

France charges jihadi with murder in IS territory
People walk under a billboard erected by the Islamic State (IS) group as part of a campaign in the IS controlled Syrian city of Raqqa in 2014. Photo: Raqa Media Center / AFP
Using the pseudonym “Abou Salman al Faransi”, 26-year-old Othman Garrido is believed to have arrived in the region in 2012, where anti-terror prosecutors (PNAT) say he committed “murder in connection with a terrorist undertaking” and joined a “terrorist conspiracy”.
He is believed to have played an important role in and have information on the French jihadist scene.
A judge on Friday ordered him jailed provisionally after he spent the week in police custody.
“Based on photographs of abuses where he is visible”, Garrido “was likely involved in other murders in Iraq and Syria” being probed in a separate investigation, PNAT said.
Prosecutors suspect him of three murders in total, although they have not been able to precisely date the crimes.
France has had an arrest warrant out since 2016 for Garrido, a native of southern city Montpellier.
Turkish forces captured him near the Syrian border in July, and handed him over under a Paris-Ankara deal covering the return of French jihadists.
A youth court sentenced Garrido in 2017 to 15 years in jail for joining the Islamic State (IS) group in Syria, where he trained and fought as well as attempting to incite violence by French Muslims.
After burning his French passport, Garrido urged Muslims to kill “infidels” in a seven-minute video distributed by IS' communications arm in 2014.
He was flanked in that recording by two other French jihadists using the pseudonyms Abou Ousama al Faransi and Abou Maryam al Faransi.   
Garrido's parents and two of his brothers have also received jailed sentences of 10 and 15 years. It is unclear whether his brothers, who also travelled to Syria, remain alive.