OSLO (Reuters) - A Norwegian man has been held hostage in Syria since January and is now believed to be in the hands of Islamic State, Prime Minister Erna Solberg said on Wednesday, adding she would not yield to the group’s demand for a ransom payment.
“Our goal is to get our citizen home. Let me be very clear - this is a very demanding case,” she told a news conference.
She did not name the man but said he was in his 40s and had been held by several groups since he was first captured.
“The government is taking this very seriously,” she said. “We cannot and will not give in to pressure from terrorists and criminals. Norway does not pay ransoms. That is a principle we cannot give up in meetings with cynical terrorists.”
Payments of ransom would raise the risks that other Norwegian citizens could also be kidnapped, she said.
Solberg declined to take questions from the media at the news conference and withdrew from a televised party debate in the run-up to local elections due on Monday.
A government crisis group is working on the hostage case, Solberg said.
A web site claiming to belong to Islamic State’s online magazine Dabiq showed pictures of two men it said were Norwegian and Chinese, and said their governments had “abandoned” them both, but that ransom payments could secure their release.
Reporting by Terje Solsvik, Alister Doyle and Stine Jacobsen; Editing by Angus MacSwan, Larry King