French authorities on Wednesday identified Mickael Dos Santos
They said he was one of two men connected to an ISIS beheadings video
On Thursday, the prosecutor's office backed off the claim
The case is still under investigation, official says
French authorities backed off a claim that a 22-year-old man was connected to beheadings in a recent ISIS video, a day after publicly identifying him.
A spokeswoman for the Paris prosecutor’s office on Thursday distanced the agency from a news release put forth by her office that identified Mickael Dos Santos as the second French national believed to be an ISIS terrorist.
“We stated yesterday on precise and concurring clues about his identity. We never talked about formal identity. The investigation is still ongoing,” spokeswoman Agnès Thibault-Lecuivre told CNN’s Laura Akhoun. She declined further comment.
Dos Santos, according to the prosecutor’s office, remains wanted on a October 2013 warrant as part of an investigation into French citizens who had gone to Syria to fight with ISIS.
Dos Santos joins Maxime Hauchard, who authorities said Monday was also on the video, released over the weekend, that depicts in graphic detail, the beheadings of men whom ISIS militants claim were Syrian government pilots. It also shows the aftermath of another beheading in which the victim in not clearly recognizable, but that the U.S. government says was American aid worker Peter Kassig.
It also shows the aftermath of another beheading in which the victim in not clearly recognizable, but that the U.S. government says was American aid worker Peter Kassig.
Public Prosecutor Francois Molins described Hauchard – who went to Syria in 2013 and visiting Mauritania the previous year – is a “self-radicalized” jihadist who traveled to the region under the guise of a humanitarian mission. He was known to French security services as far back as 2011, the prosecutor said.
ISIS foreign fighters prompt concern
The ranks of ISIS – the extremist group calling itself the Islamic State that’s taken over vast swaths of Syria and Iraq – have swelled with volunteers coming from outside the region, including from the West.
Intelligence estimates indicate that more than 100 of the foreign fighters in Iraq and Syria have come from the United States. Hundreds more arrived from Europe, including more than 900 French citizens that country’s government believes are involved in the jihad there. This influx has spurred concerns that some of these fighters could bring the fight back home, perhaps with attacks inside Western nations.
Those worries have been heightened by the group’s brutal tactics against foe and civilians alike, such as raping, enslaving and selling Iraqi women belonging to the Yazidi religious minority. Last week, a United Nations panel stated what many consider obvious: ISIS has committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria.
The West is fighting back, with many countries – including France – allying with Iraq to conduct airstrikes targeting ISIS in that country. The United States has also led airstrikes going after the group in Syria.