France said Monday that a French national is believed to have appeared in a video of ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) fighters beheading Syrian soldiers and displaying the severed head of U.S. aid worker Peter Kassig. Separately, a British man denied earlier reports that his son, a medical student, was also in the video.
The French intelligence agency DGSI has analyzed the video, said France’s interior minister, Bernard Cazeneuve. "This analysis suggests with a very high probability that a French citizen could have directly participated in carrying out these abject acts," Cazeneuve told journalists.
He said the analysis indicated that one of the men shown taking prisoners to the execution site could have been Maxime Hauchard, 22, a Frenchman from the northern Eure region who left for Syria in August 2013.
The announcement on Sunday of Kassig's death — the fifth such killing of a Western captive by ISIL — was included in the video, which also showed the beheadings of at least 14 men described by ISIL as Syrian military pilots and officers.
ISIL, which is fighting in Iraq and Syria, includes thousands of foreign combatants and has become a magnet for fighters from Europe and North America.
French judges last year opened a preliminary investigation against Hauchard on suspicion that he was conspiring to commit “terrorist” acts, the charge commonly levied against citizens who have fought with Islamist groups.
In an interview with French television in the summer, Hauchard said his goal in joining ISIL was to become a martyr.
Separately, a man in the United Kingdom reversed his initial statement about his son's possible appearance in the video. The Daily Mail newspaper had earlier quoted Ahmed Muthana as saying his 20-year-old son, Nasser Muthana, appeared to be among the group of fighters seen in the video.
"I cannot be certain, but it looks like my son," the newspaper quoted Ahmed Muthana as saying.
But speaking to reporters on Monday outside his house in the Welsh capital of Cardiff, Muthana — who said he hadn’t seen his son since November 2013 — revised his statement: "That is not my son, the nose is different, it does not look like my son."
British Prime Minister David Cameron was set to chair a meeting of the government's emergency response committee, Cobra, in the next 36 hours to receive briefing from intelligence and security officials in light of the latest video, his spokesman said.
Britain’s security threat rating was raised to its second-highest level in August due to the risks posed by ISIL fighters returning from Iraq and Syria.
Al Jazeera and Reuters