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French hostage beheaded in Algeria

Algerian extremists allied with the Islamic State group appear to have decapitated a French hostage after France ignored their demand to stop air strikes in Iraq, according to a video released by a US terrorism watchdog.

A group calling itself Jund al-Khilafah said after abducting Herve Gourdel on Sunday that he would be killed within 24 hours unless France ended its air strikes against Islamic State (IS) fighters in Iraq.

The French government has insisted it will not back down.

Terrorism watchdog SITE Intelligence Group distributed a video by Jund al-Khilafah announcing Mr Gourdel's death.

Mr Gourdel was a 55-year-old mountaineering guide from Nice seized in the mountains of northern Algeria.

The video resembled those showing the beheadings of two American journalists and a British aid worker in recent weeks, but instead of showing President Barack Obama it showed French President Francois Hollande.

France started air strikes in Iraq on Friday, the first country to join the US military campaign against the IS fighters there.

"Our values are at stake," French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said after hearing about the video.

Algeria has been fighting Islamic extremists since the 1990s and in recent years they had been largely confined to a few mountainous areas, where they have concentrated on attacking soldiers and police while leaving civilians alone.

The killing of a hostage represents a departure for radical Islamic groups in Algeria which in the past decade have made millions by ransoming hostages.

The new group split away from al Qaida's North Africa branch and declared allegiance to the al-Baghdadi group in Iraq and Syria and has apparently adopted their tactic of killing hostages.

Mr Hollande confirmed the killing. He told reporters the hostage was cruelly "assassinated" because he was French and because his country was fighting terrorism and defending human liberty against barbarity.

He spoke on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly which he is attending.

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