Last week, fighters supporting the extremist group known as the Islamic State, also called ISIS, beheaded Herve Gourdel, a mountain guide from Nice, France. Gourdel had traveled to the Djurdjura mountains in Algeria’s Tizi Ouzou region, planning to hike for 10 days while scouting a new climbing area. “The Moroccan Atlas was where I first found ways to take my interests further,” Gourdel said of the area prior his trip. Shortly before Gourdel’s trip, ISIS had encouraged its proponents to injure Europeans, a move in response to the airstrikes in Iraq and Syria.
On September 21, just one day after Gourdel arrived in the area, an Algerian group of fighters, known as Jund al-Khilafah or Soldiers of the Caliphate, kidnapped him. The following day, the Algerian group made public a video of the Frenchman in captivity, demanding that France abandon their campaign against the Islamic State within 24 hours. Two days later, on September 24, a video documenting Gourdel’s beheading was released. At the time of publication, the Algerian government had released the identities of several suspects in the murder.
Swedish alpinist and conflict dynamics analyst David Falt, who wrote an in-depth analysis of last year’s Nanga Parbat terrorist attacks for Alpinist, said in an email, “[I]t’s worth pointing out that what happened to Gourdel, to some extent, must be described for what it is: a random attack against an innocent private citizen of a foreign country. It’s an unspeakable act of pure evil and barbarism.”
On his personal website, Gourdel described first discovering the mountains in France’s Mercantour as a young boy with his father. He remembered wanting nothing more than to come back as soon as possible. Eric Ciotti, a representative of France’s Alpes-Maritimes department, remembered Gourdel as a “man widely appreciated for his skills as well as his human qualities.”