Fears mount for Croa­t­ian ab­ducted by Egypt ji­hadists


Fears mounted for the fate of a Croa­t­ian ab­ducted in Egypt by Is­lamic State group mil­i­tants who had threat­ened to ex­e­cute him by the end of Fri­day.

The un­prece­dented ab­duc­tion in the North African coun­try has rat­tled for­eign­ers who flock to Egypt to work in multi­na­tional com­pa­nies, while un­der­scor­ing the ji­hadists’ reach de­spite a mas­sive mil­i­tary cam­paign against them.

Although Egypt is fight­ing an Is­lamic State group in­sur­gency in the sparsely pop­u­lated Si­nai Penin­sula, it had been largely spared the hor­rific kid­nap­pings con­ducted by the Is­lamic State group in Syria, Iraq and Libya.

The fa­ther of Salopek, who works for the French geo­science com­pany CGG, called on the kid­nap­pers to re­lease the 31-year-old fa­ther of two, as Croa­t­ian For­eign Min­is­ter Vesna Pu­sic left for Cairo to fol­low the case.

“I am ask­ing the peo­ple who hold my son to let him re­turn to his fam­ily, be­cause his mo­tive to go to your home­land was ex­clu­sively to earn bread for his chil­dren. Noth­ing else,” Zlatko Salopek told AFP at the fam­ily’s home in the eastern Croa­t­ian town of Vr­polje.

Salopek had ap­peared in an Is­lamic State video re­leased over the in­ter­net on Wed­nes­day, kneel­ing next to a masked mil­i­tant hold­ing a knife.

Read­ing from a pa­per, he said that his cap­tors would ex­e­cute him in 48 hours if the Egyp­tian gov­ern­ment did not re­lease fe­male pris- on­ers, which has been a de­mand of Is­lamist mil­i­tants over the past two years.

Thou­sands of peo­ple, most of them Is­lamists, have been jailed since the army over­threw Is­lamist pres­i­dent Mo­hamed Morsi in 2013 and un­leashed a deadly crack­down on his fol­low­ers.

Salopek was ab­ducted last month on a road run­ning from the west of Cairo.

His driver was left un­harmed, and po­lice say they have ques­tioned him.

It was not clear where the mil­i­tants were hold­ing Salopek in the vast and mostly desert coun­try.

While the ji­hadists mostly op­er­ate in Si­nai, in north­east­ern Egypt, they have also con­ducted at­tacks in the coun­try’s western desert over the past two years.

For­merly known as An­sar Beit al-Maqdis, the group changed its name when it pledged al­le­giance to IS in Novem­ber.

Last De­cem­ber, the ji­hadists claimed they killed an Amer­i­can work­ing for petroleum com­pany Apache, also west of Cairo.

That at­tack was at first treated as a deadly car­jack­ing by po­lice.

In July, IS said it was be­hind a car bomb at­tack tar­get­ing the Ital­ian con­sulate in Cairo — the first such at­tack against a for­eign mis­sion in Egypt since ji­hadists be­gan their cam­paign fol­low­ing the crack­down on Is­lamists.

The video of Salopek was re­leased the day be­fore a lav­ish cer­e­mony at the Suez Canal to celebrate an ex­pan­sion of the wa­ter­way, with a host of world lead­ers in at­ten­dance.

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