BEIRUT — Jihadists in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula threatened on Wednesday to kill a Croatian citizen who had been reported kidnapped in Cairo last month, confirming the militants’ first known abduction of a foreign national and marking a dangerous escalation in the country’s growing insurgency.
An Islamic State affiliate called Sinai Province released a video showing Tomislav Salopek, an employee at a French geoscience company, kneeling in the sand in a tan-colored jumpsuit as a militant holding a knife stands behind him.
In the minute-long video, Salopek, 30, says the jihadists captured him July 22. Reading from a small piece of paper he holds with both hands, Salopek says Egyptian authorities must release all female Muslim prisoners in 48 hours, or the militants will kill him.
“I’m married to Natasha and I have two children,” Salopek says to the camera as an Islamic State flag planted nearby flaps in the wind. The video was also posted by the SITE Institute, an organization that tracks militants’ activities online.
“This matter have to be achieved before 48 hours from now,” Salopek says in broken English. The militant behind him — masked and wearing desert-camouflage fatigues — remains silent. “If not, the soldiers of Wilayata Sina will kill me,” Salopek adds, using an Arabic phrase for the group calling itself Sinai Province.
Croatia first reported the abduction of one of its citizens on July 24 in a statement issued by the Foreign Ministry.
Salopek was driving a take-home vehicle to work when gunmen intercepted him and forced him out of the car, the statement said. His French employer, CGG, which provides services to the oil and gas industry, has branches in two Cairo suburbs. It is unclear in what area Salopek was abducted.
The ability of jihadists to abduct a foreigner in Egypt’s capital is a serious blow to a government that has vowed to battle Islamist insurgents. Militants have staged several brazen attacks against Egyptian security forces in recent weeks.
A spokesman for Egypt’s Foreign Ministry said Wednesday that Egyptian security forces were “currently working on this issue” of Salopek’s abduction.
The Egyptian government was in touch with the Croatian Foreign Ministry, the spokesman said.