The French Interior Ministry on Monday admitted there is a “very strong probability” that one of the ISIS terrorists who committed the beheading of US aid worker Peter Kassig and at least 18 Syrian soldiers is a French citizen.
“There is a very strong probability that a French citizen was directly involved in these despicable crimes,” French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said.
He noted that after analyzing video of the beheadings that was released this weekend, French intelligence services identified the ISIS terrorist as 22-year-old Maxime Hauchard of Normandy in northwestern France, reports AFP.
Hauchard “left for Syria in August 2013 after a short stay in Mauritania in 2012,” Cazeneuve added. Over 1,000 French citizens have reportedly left to join ISIS.
An intelligence source told the French news agency that agents are now working to verify whether a second French citizen also took part in the beheadings.
According to French daily Le Figaro, Hauchard goes under the Arabic name of Abu Abdallah Al Faransi, the latter of which means “the Frenchman.” He took part in a BFM TV news report in July describing his conversion to Islam at the age of 17 after watching videos about the religion online.
In the news report he documented how he made his way to Syria through Turkey, winding up in the Syrian ISIS stronghold of Raqqa. Hauchard added he was on a special mission that he was willing to die for.
Peter Kassig’s parents said on Sunday they were heartbroken over the loss of their son, who converted to Islam and changed his name to Abdul-Rahman only to be killed by the ISIS jihadists.
The 26-year-old was captured last year and was threatened in an October 3 video showing the beheading of British aid worker Alan Henning.
Experts speculated on Sunday that Kassig may have struggled to the end with his captors due to the fact that he was not shown making a statement on camera in contrast to previous videos; rather his decapitated head was shown in the video indicating he may have resisted.