French PM vows 'no negotiation' with Algeria hostage-takers

French PM vows 'no negotiation' with Algeria hostage-takers
An image grab taken from a video released by Jund al-Khilifa group viao YouTube on Sept 22, 2014, allegedly shows French tourist, Herve Pierre Gourdel (centre), sitting between two armed jihadists at an undisclosed location.

PARIS  - Paris vowed Tuesday there would be no negotiation with extremists who kidnapped a French hiker in Algeria, as the local army raced against time to find him before his threatened execution.

Algerian military planes were combing the mountainous eastern Tizi Ouzou region backed by elite anti-terrorist troops in a desperate bid to find 55-year-old Herve Pierre Gourdel, a security source said.

The kidnapping was claimed by Jund al-Khilifa (Soldiers of the Caliphate), a group linked to Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants who vowed to kill the hostage by Tuesday night if Paris did not stop air strikes in Iraq.

The French government confirmed as authentic a video posted by the group showing the white-haired and bespectacled hostage squatting on the ground flanked by two hooded men clutching Kalashnikov assault rifles.

However, Paris refused to be cowed by the threat against Mr Gourdel and Prime Minister Manuel Valls insisted the country would press on with air strikes alongside the United States.

Mr Valls told French radio there would be "no discussion, no negotiation and we will never give in to blackmail. Even if we are of course very worried after the authentication of this video." "If we give in, if we retreat an inch, we will be handing them victory," Mr Valls told Europe 1 radio while on a visit to Germany.

The video surfaced shortly after ISIS issued a statement urging Muslims to kill Westerners whose nations have joined a campaign to battle the jihadist group, in particular Americans and French.

The United States has built a broad coalition of more than 50 nations to fight the IS organisation, after the extremists seized large parts of Syria and Iraq and committed widespread atrocities including beheadings and crucifixions.

On Friday, France conducted its first air strikes in Iraq.

"These strikes, this engagement will of course continue," promised Mr Valls.

The country "cannot be scared of those who threaten it in this way," he said, but added: "I want to convince our compatriots ... that we have never been up against such a threat, in France and in Europe." However while the United States launched strikes against the ISIS militants in Syria, France has said it will not do so.

Paris had however been prepared to strike military targets in Syria after an August 2013 sarin attack, before the US backed off after the regime agreed to turn over its chemical arsenal.

"In Iraq, we are taking part in the aerial operation. In Syria we are helping the opposition. That is our position and it has not changed," Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said in New York on Monday.

In a YouTube video posted on Monday night - Jund al-Khilifa threatened to kill Mr Gourdel within 24 hours unless Paris halts its air strikes.

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