Islamic State Kassig murder: Western jihadists probed

IS video grab of Maxime Hauchard
Maxime Hauchard went to Syria in August 2013, French authorities believe.

Western intelligence officials are trying to identify Islamic State (IS) militants seen in the video that shows the beheading of US aid worker Abdul-Rahman Kassig and 18 Syrian prisoners.

Mr Kassig, 26, is the fifth Western hostage to be killed by IS.

A French prosecutor said one militant was Maxime Hauchard, 22, and another Frenchman might have been present.

A third militant was reported to be a Briton, although the father of Nasser Muthana, 20, now denies it is his son.

The Daily Mail had earlier reported Ahmed Muthana as saying “it looks like my son”.

But Mr Muthana now says his son is not among the jihadists in the video.

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Analysis: Frank Gardner, BBC security correspondent

The 16-minute video posted online by IS, while graphically sadistic, also reveals a wealth of detail about the perpetrators and their whereabouts. This is deliberate. IS is effectively taunting the Western-led coalition that is arranged against it, saying this is who we are, come and get us if you dare.

Intelligence agencies will be using facial recognition software to identify those involved in the mass beheading, matching their real names and origins to their adopted battle names. IS has even put a place name on the video, Dabiq in northern Syria – a place where according to Islamic hadith, an apocalyptic battle will be fought between Muslims and non-Muslims.

The one person who keeps his identity concealed is the suspected British jihadist known in the UK media as “Jihadi John”. He is believed to be from London and both the FBI and MI5 almost certainly know who he is but for reasons known to them, they are not revealing his name.

Abdul-Rahman Kassig is being mourned “as a fallen hero” by Syria’s opposition, the BBC’s Frank Gardner reports

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