Hervé Gourdel, a 55-year-old mountain guide from Nice, France, has been beheaded by a faction of the Islamic State after being captured on a personal hiking trip in northern Algeria.
Gourdel was abducted on Sunday, September 21, by Jund al-Khilafah, a militant Islamic group that had recently pledged allegiance to Islamic State. According to the BBC, friends said he was on a hiking and reconnaissance trip to the northeast Kabylie region.
The Guardian has said he was seized in the Djurdjura Mountains, in the Kabylie region, part of the Tell Atlas Mountains.
On Monday, the jihadist assemblage released a video threatening Gourdel’s execution in 24 hours if France did not stop airstrikes against IS.
Algerian forces organized a massive manhunt in an attempt to rescue Gourdel. Yesterday Jund al-Khilafah released the video of his beheading.
According to Gourdel’s website, he had wanted to be a mountain guide since he was a teenager and traveled to the Maritime Alps with friends. In 1987, with other guides, he established the company Escapade Les Guide Du Mercantour. The company led rock climbing, canyoneering, ski touring and hiking trips, mostly in the Nice region and Mercantour National Park north of Nice. Gourdel also trained mountain guides in Morocco, Nepal and Jordan, according to the BBC, which also reported that his friends said he had visited Algeria previously.
He had led trips in the Tell Atlas Mountains in Morocco for 20 years, according to the BBC.
Gourdel was also a lifetime photographer. He wrote on his website (translated): “I started making pictures in mountains when my father took me to my first peaks in the Mercantour around the age of ten years…I made pictures with my clients to give them a memory. I have long liked to shoot landscapes in the wild as it was those places that inspired me and where I spent most of my time.”
French President François Hollande has said the airstrikes against IS will continue. He and President Obama condemned the killing.
French flags will fly at half-staff on Friday and Saturday to mourn Gourdel.
Among many condolences posted on Escapade Les Guide Du Mercantour’s Facebook page, one read (translated), “It’s a whole country crying today for your tragic loss.”