Islamic State’s affiliate in Egypt said Wednesday it had killed a Croatian national kidnapped last month, claiming the execution was retaliation for his country’s involvement in the fight against the militant group.
A photo posted on Twitter accounts linked to the Sinai Province of the Islamic State showed a decapitated head resting on the back of a headless body, with blood soaking the sand. The Islamic State’s black flag is planted nearby. A caption accompanying the image said Tomislav Salopek had been killed after the “apostate Egyptian government and his country abandoned him.”
It wasn’t possible to independently verify the authenticity of the image. Last week, Sinai Province followers had been asked in social media postings to guess how the group had killed Salopek.
In a video released Aug. 5, the 30-year-old Croatian could be heard saying that he would be killed within 48 hours unless Egypt’s government released “Muslim women in Egyptian prisons.” A masked militant wielding a knife stood beside him.
Croatian Premier Zoran Milanovic told reporters in Zagreb the government was “sad about the information that we have about Tomislav Salopek,” though it can’t confirm the news “100 percent.”
He asked Croatians to “be careful and avoid those parts of the world,” and noted the country “won’t take part in combat” against the Islamic State. A spokesman for Egypt’s foreign ministry didn’t answer calls seeking comment.
Sinai Province has claimed responsibility for many of the deadliest attacks on Egyptian forces since an Islamist insurgency escalated following the army-backed ouster of President Mohamed Mursi in 2013.
The video of Salopek appeared a day before Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi officially inaugurated an expansion of the Suez Canal, one of a series of projects aimed at ending four years of economic stagnation and political unrest.
Local media reported Salopek was kidnapped west of Cairo, raising concerns that the group, most of whose attacks have been in the restive northern Sinai, may increasingly target the capital.
The militant group launched a broad assault on Egyptian security forces and military checkpoints on July 1, at one point effectively laying siege to the main police station in the town of Sheikh Zuweyid.
The attack, which was repulsed after the military sent in fighter jets and helicopters, marked a change in strategy for a group that had, until then, largely resorted to hit-and-run tactics.