Gouri Abdelmalek led Jund al Khilafa, which killed French hiker Herve Gourdel in September
Jund al Khilafa, an Algerian group that splintered from al Qaeda, linked to ISIS
Algerian military says it killed Abdelmalek and two other people in city of Isser on Monday
The Algerian military has killed the leader of an Algerian terror group that beheaded French hiker Herve Gourdel earlier this year, the state-run Algeria Press Service reported Tuesday.
Gouri Abdelmalek, leader of Jund al Khilafa, and two other militants were killed in the Algerian city of Isser after the military set an unspecified “trap,” for them, APS reported Tuesday, citing Algeria’s defense ministry.
The report of Abdelmalek’s death comes roughly three months after Jund al Khilafa – a small Islamist group formerly linked to al Qaeda – published a video showing the beheading of Gourdel in what the group said was a display of support to al Qaeda’s rival ISIS.
Gourdel, 55, was hiking in central Algeria’s Djudjura National Park when he was abducted in September. Jund al Khilafa, having just declared allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), then published a video of Gourdel’s beheading on September 24.
The video was titled, “A message of blood for the French government.” The group said it was responding to an appeal by ISIS spokesman Muhammad al-Adnani to kill “the spiteful and filthy French” because of their support for military action against the group in Iraq.
A video message showing the execution was designed to resemble beheadings carried out by ISIS, as were the words of one of the militants, who said: “Let the French people know that their blood is cheap for their President, and it is the same as you made the blood of the Muslim women and children cheap in Iraq and Sham (Syria).”
The Algerian government called the beheading an act of “criminals,” and French President Francois Hollande said at the time that Algeria’s Prime Minister assured him he would do the utmost to find the killers.
On Monday, the Algerian army launched its attack in Isser after tracking what it believed was “a dangerous terrorist group driving a vehicle” in the city, the Algerian defense ministry said, according to APS. Abdelmalek was later confirmed as one of the three that the army killed, APS reported Tuesday.
Jund al Khilafa, which means “Soldiers of the Caliphate,” had been a part of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. Abdelmalek, who was the commander of AQIM’s central region, said in September that his fighters were abandoning AQIM because of “the certain deviation of the methods of the mother organization al-Qaeda, and that of the Islamic Maghreb.”
Abdelmalek had been active in a militant Islamist insurgency in Algeria for 14 years.
Gourdel was just one of the Westerners to be beheaded by an Islamist extremist group this year. Since mid-August, ISIS has beheaded American journalists Steven Sotloff and James Foley, British aid worker David Haines, British aid convoy volunteer Alan Henning, and American aid worker Peter Kassig.
CNN’s Tim Lister and Steve Almasy contributed to this report.