by Adham Youssef and Menna Zaki
Extremist militant group “State of Sinai” claimed the decapitation of Croatian hostage Tomislav Salopek, as images of his decapitated body, circulated by the group’s affiliated accounts, went viral Wednesday on social media.
The photo shows the mutilated body lying in the desert with the flag of “Islamic State” (IS) in the background. The North Sinai group has pledged allegiance to IS.
A caption to the photo reads: “The killing of the Croatian hostage, whose country is fighting the Islamic State, after the passing of the ultimatum and after his country and the Egyptian government abandoned him.”
Two screenshots were attached to the left of the photo of the decapitated body. One of them was taken from Al-Dostour newspaper. It contained a headline that said: “Croatia stresses support for Egypt’s efforts to combat terrorism.”
The second screenshot was not fully clear, but it contained a statement that said: “Croatia stresses its continued support for the Province of Kurdistan.”
Kurds in both Syria and Iraq are fighting ””Islamic State” militants on territories lost by the Iraqi and Syrian governments during the current turmoil in both nations.
A representative from the Ministry of Interior told Daily News Egypt that they are aware of the case, but they do not have an official confirmation about the incident, not the place Salopek was killed at. Once the killing is confirmed, the ministry will release a statement.
Salopek was shown in a short video by the group wearing an orange prisoner jumpsuit, usually given to captives by groups affiliated to IS. Next to him was a militant in combat clothes with a knife in hand.
An official from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Croatia told Daily News Egypt that they do not have a confirmation on whether Salopek was killed or not.
In a message addressed to the Egyptian government, the video featured Salopek saying he works for Compagnie Générale de Géophysique (CGG), a French-based company that provides geophysical services to oil and gas companies. The message provided a 48 ultimatum for Egyptian authorities, since the release of the video last Wednesday.
Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry received last Friday Croatian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Vesna Pusic, to follow-up on efforts to release Salopek.
The location to where Salopek was taken to could not be identified through the video. Security analyst Khaled Okasha previously told Daily News Egypt that it is not expected that the militants have transferred him to North Sinai.
Borislav Ristic, a journalist with Croatian newspaper “Vecernji list” commented on the incident. “Everything regarding this was so secret. I just know that our Ministry of Foreign Affairs went to Egypt, trying to do something…but everybody knows that chances were minimal to rescue him,” he said.
He told Daily News Egypt that the security measures and consciousness about that kind of threat were very low.
If officially confirmed, the incident will be the second of its kind by “State of Sinai”, after they pledged allegiance to the “Islamic State”.
Last December, a US oil expert William Henderson in the Western Desert region, was also killed by the group. Henderson, 58, worked for Apache Corporation as a petroleum expert in Egypt’s Western Desert.
Executing foreigners and opposition fighters is a trend followed by “Islamic State” affiliated groups in Syria and Libya.
“State of Sinai” normally operates in the Sinai Peninsula but has claimed responsibility for attacks carried out in other parts of Egypt as well, including an assassination attempt on former minister of interior Mohamed Ibrahim in September 2013.
The militants have stressed in the past that they aim to target Egyptian security forces personnel and infrastructure.
Additional reporting by Amira El-Fekki