LONDON/PARIS (Reuters) - A Frenchman is believed to have appeared in a video of Islamic State jihadists beheading Syrian soldiers and displaying the severed head of U.S. aid worker Peter Kassig, but a British man denied earlier reports that his medical student son was there too.
Sunday’s announcement of Kassig’s death, the fifth such killing of a Western captive by Islamic State, formed part of the video which also showed the beheadings of at least 14 men Islamic State said were Syrian military pilots and officers.
France’s interior minister said analysis by the DGSI security service suggested that one of the men shown herding prisoners to the execution site was Maxime Hauchard, 22, a Frenchman from the northern Eure region who left for Syria in August 2013.
“This analysis suggests with a very high probability that a French citizen could have directly participated in carrying out these abject acts,” Bernard Cazeneuve told journalists.
French judges last year opened a preliminary investigation against Hauchard on suspicion that he was conspiring to commit terrorist acts, the charge commonly levied against citizens who have fought with Islamist militants.
In an interview with French television in the summer, Hauchard said his goal in joining Islamic State was to become a martyr.
Briton Ahmed Muthana was quoted by the Daily Mail as saying that his 20-year-old son, Nasser Muthana, appeared to be among the group of jihadists seen in the video.
“I cannot be certain, but it looks like my son,” Ahmed Muthana was quoted by the newspaper as saying.
But speaking to reporters on Monday outside his house in the Welsh capital of Cardiff, he said: “That is not my son, the nose is different, it does not look like my son.”
“I have not seen my son since November 2013 but that is not my son; the nose is different,” Muthana said. He also told Reuters by telephone that the man shown in the video was not his son.
British Prime Minister David Cameron will chair a meeting of the government’s emergency response committee, Cobra, in the next 36 hours to receive briefing from intelligence and security officials in light of the latest video, his spokesman said.
Britain’s security threat level was raised to its second-highest in August due to the risks posed by Islamic State fighters returning from Iraq and Syria.
Islamic State, which is fighting in Iraq and Syria, includes thousands of foreign combatants and has become a magnet for jihadis from Europe and North America.
IS has released videos of the beheading of two American and two British men which feature a masked, black-clad militant brandishing a knife and speaking with an English accent, who has been dubbed “Jihadi John” by British media.
Sunday’s video showed all of the killers unmasked, with the exception of the black-clad militant, and the Daily Mail said the man who appeared to be Nasser Muthana was standing alongside Jihadi John. Muthana appeared in a video in June urging Muslims to join IS.
Reporting by Rebecca Naden and Ahmed Aboulenein in Cardiff, Kate Holton and Paul Sandle in London and Nicholas Vinocur in Paris; Editing by Giles Elgood, Peter Graff and Sophie Walker