PARIS (Reuters) - French authorities have identified a second French militant who appears on a beheading video released by Islamic State (IS) at the weekend, a state prosecutor said on Wednesday.
Officials said on Monday that one of the men shown herding prisoners to their execution was Maxime Hauchard, a Frenchman Muslim convert who left for Syria in 2013.
In a statement, the state prosecutor said that a second Frenchman, Mickael Dos Santos - a 22-year-old man from a town east of Paris who converted to Islam and left for Syria in August 2013 - had been identified.
“In addition to Maxime Hauchard, precise and consistent clues have been collected during an investigation which allow us to identify the presence of a second Frenchman: Mickael Dos Santos,” the prosecutor’s office said in a statement.
Thousands of Western volunteers have joined Islamic State, which has captured large parts of Syria and Iraq. More than 1,130 French citizens are involved in jihadi cells linked to the two countries, of which 376 nationals are in the region.
The second Frenchman was known to intelligence services but had no criminal record, the prosecutor’s office said.
The 15-minute video posted online shows the decapitations of 18 men who Islamic State said were pilots and officers loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, as well as the severed head of U.S. aid worker Peter Kassig.
France is part of a coalition carrying out air strikes on Islamic State and earlier this year toughened anti-terrorism laws to stop citizens going to Syria and prevent young Muslims becoming radicalized.
A report published by the CPDSI, an institute created specifically to study radicalization linked to Islam in French society, showed on Tuesday that the majority of those that had turned to radical Islam were from middle class families, originally atheist and under 21.
Sebastien Pietrasanta, a lawmaker involved in finalizing the new anti-terrorism legislation, told Reuters that only 50 percent of the 1,130 linked to IS cells were originally known to intelligence services.
“(Hauchard) is the perfect example of the phenomenon we’re facing: a small provincial village, a well-integrated family with jobs, radicalized on the internet at a very young age, converts and leaves,” he said. “It illustrates the diversity of the profile and the self-radicalization on the Internet.”
Reporting by John Irish, Chine Labbe and Nicholas Vinocur; Editing by Mark John and Mark Heinrich