Croatia says 2 groups were involved in hostage's abduction

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Croatia Attempts to Confirm Hostage Beheading After 'Horrific' Photo Is Posted

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) -- The alleged beheading of a Croatian hostage in Egypt took a sinister new turn Thursday with the revelation that a criminal gang kidnapped him, then demanded a ransom from his employer before turning him over to the Islamic State group.

The French geoscience company that the 30-year-old oil and gas surveyor worked for said it tried in vain to contact his abductors after receiving their emailed demand for cash.

The kidnapping and apparent beheading of Tomislav Salopek, who was snatched in broad daylight on the outskirts of Cairo, is the first of its kind involving a foreigner in Egypt. It is sure to deal a blow to the government's efforts to project stability and buttress an economic turnaround following years of unrest in the wake of Egypt's Arab Spring.

SEE ALSO:Hometown of Croat allegedly slain by IS in disbelief

It will also likely rattle companies with expatriate workers in Egypt and cast a cloud over hopes of boosting international investment in the country.

Christophe Barnini, the chief spokesman for Salopek's employer, CGG Ardiseis, said the company received an email with a ransom demand eight days after his July 22 kidnapping, but it included no contact number and multiple responses to the address it came from went unanswered. The company's emails asked for proof of life and included a telephone number for the kidnappers to contact, Barnini said, adding that CGG was acting on directives from Croatian and Egyptian authorities.

See reaction to Salopek's death on social media:

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Croatia says 2 groups were involved in hostage's abduction
This image made from a militant video posted on a social media website on Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2015, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, purports to show a militant standing next to another man who identifies himself as 30-year-old Tomislav Salopek, kneeling down as he reads a message at an unknown location. The video purportedly released by the Islamic State group threatens to kill the Croatian hostage if Egyptian authorities do not release "Muslim women" held in prison within 48 hours. (Militant website via AP)
Please DO NOT post or RT any ISIS "pictures" of #TomislavSalopek in respect of him and his family. #Croatia
R.I.P. Tomislav Salopek. Leaves behind a wife and two young children. ISIS must be stopped.
Dear intl. followers, please do not RT photos of CRO hostage #TomislavSalopek killed by ISIS. Those barbarians want that sort of attention.
He was a loving father, son and a husband, can't believe what happend. RIP Tomislav Salopek.
It's preferable if we don't start retweeting the beheaded picture of Tomislav Salopek. Please.
Friends of Croatian national Tomislav Salopek, abducted near Cairo by Islamic State group militants, stand outside his home in Vrpolje, eastern Croatia, waiting for news, on August 7, 2015. Fears mounted on August 7 over the fate of Salopek, whose abductors have threatened to execute him unless Muslim women in Egyptian jails are freed, as a 48-hour deadline set by the jihadists on August 5 neared. Salopek, a 31-year-old working for French geoscience company CGG kidnapped last month. AFP PHOTO /STRINGER (Photo credit should read STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images)
The house of 31-year-old Tomislav Salopek is pictured in Vrpolje in eastern Croatia on August 6, 2015. Egypt's affiliate of the Islamic State group threatened August 5, 2015 to execute a Croatian kidnapped in Cairo last month within 48 hours if Muslim women jailed in Egypt are not freed. The man is the first foreigner to be abducted and threatened with death by militants in Egypt since an Islamist insurgency erupted two years ago. In a video posted online by the jihadists, the Croatian identifies himself as Tomislav Salopek working for French geoscience company CGG, and appears kneeling at the feet of a hooded man holding a knife. AFP PHOTO / STRINGER +++ CROATIA OUT (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)
A journalist speaks on the phone in front of the house (C) of Croatian national Tomislav Salopek, abducted near Cairo by Islamic State group militants, stand outside his home in Vrpolje, eastern Croatia, waiting for news, on August 7, 2015. Fears mounted on August 7 over the fate of Salopek, whose abductors have threatened to execute him unless Muslim women in Egyptian jails are freed, as a 48-hour deadline set by the jihadists on August 5 neared. Salopek, a 31-year-old working for French geoscience company CGG kidnapped last month. AFP PHOTO /STRINGER (Photo credit should read STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images)
Inhabitants prays in local church in Vrpolje on August 12, 2015, after hearing in the news that Islamic State group claims to have beheaded Croatian hostage Tomislav Salopek, 31 years old, working for French geoscience company CGG and abducted last month west of Cairo. Prime Croatian Minister Zoran Milanovic said on August 12 he was unable to confirm the death of a hostage that the Islamic State group claimed to have beheaded, but that he feared the worst. TThe Islamic State group posted a purported picture of the victim's body on IS-affiliated Twitter accounts. AFP PHOTO /STRINGER (Photo credit should read STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images)
Croatia's prime minister Zoran Milanovic attends a press conference in Zagreb, Croatia, Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2015. Islamic State sympathizers circulated an image Wednesday that appears to show the grisly aftermath of the beheading of Tomislav Salopek, a Croatian hostage abducted in Egypt, which if confirmed would mark the first such killing of a foreign captive in the country since the extremist group established a branch here last year. In a televised address to the nation, Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic said authorities there could not confirm the killing with certainty. (AP Photo/Goran Stanzl)
Stipe Bilokapic, a friend of the Salopek family talks to media in name of the family in Vrpolje, on August 12, 2015, after hearing in the news that Islamic State group claims to have beheaded Croatian hostage Tomislav Salopek a 31 years old working for French geoscience company CGG and abducted last month west of Cairo. Prime Croatian Minister Zoran Milanovic said on August 12 he was unable to confirm the death of a hostage that the Islamic State group claimed to have beheaded, but that he feared the worst. The Islamic State group posted a purported picture of the victim's body on IS-affiliated Twitter accounts. AFP PHOTO /STRINGER = CROATIA OUT = (Photo credit should read STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images)
A media crew films in front of the Salopek family's house in Vrpolje, on August 12, 2015, after hearing in the news that Islamic State group claims to have beheaded Croatian hostage Tomislav Salopek a 31 years old working for French geoscience company CGG and abducted last month west of Cairo. Prime Croatian Minister Zoran Milanovic said on August 12 he was unable to confirm the death of a hostage that the Islamic State group claimed to have beheaded, but that he feared the worst. The Islamic State group posted a purported picture of the victim's body on IS-affiliated Twitter accounts. AFP PHOTO /STRINGER = CROATIA OUT = (Photo credit should read STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images)
Stipe Bilokapic (R), a friend of the Salopek family talks to media in name of the family in Vrpolje, on August 12, 2015, after hearing in the news that Islamic State group claims to have beheaded Croatian hostage Tomislav Salopek a 31 years old working for French geoscience company CGG and abducted last month west of Cairo. Prime Croatian Minister Zoran Milanovic said on August 12 he was unable to confirm the death of a hostage that the Islamic State group claimed to have beheaded, but that he feared the worst. The Islamic State group posted a purported picture of the victim's body on IS-affiliated Twitter accounts. AFP PHOTO /STRINGER = CROATIA OUT = (Photo credit should read STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images)
Inhabitants prays in local church in Vrpolje on August 12, 2015, after hearing in the news that Islamic State group claims to have beheaded Croatian hostage Tomislav Salopek, 31 years old, working for French geoscience company CGG and abducted last month west of Cairo. Prime Croatian Minister Zoran Milanovic said on August 12 he was unable to confirm the death of a hostage that the Islamic State group claimed to have beheaded, but that he feared the worst. TThe Islamic State group posted a purported picture of the victim's body on IS-affiliated Twitter accounts. AFP PHOTO /STRINGER (Photo credit should read STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images)
A bartender reacts in his bar in Vrpolje on August 12, 2015, after hearing in the news that Islamic State group claims to have beheaded Croatian hostage Tomislav Salopek, 31 years old, working for French geoscience company CGG and abducted last month west of Cairo. Prime Croatian Minister Zoran Milanovic said on August 12 he was unable to confirm the death of a hostage that the Islamic State group claimed to have beheaded, but that he feared the worst. The jihadists had issued a 48-hour deadline that ended on August 7 threatening to kill him if Muslim women prisoners were not released from Egyptian jails.AFP PHOTO /STRINGER (Photo credit should read STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images)
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"At no moment did we enter negotiations with the kidnappers about a ransom," Barnini said. He refused to say how much money the kidnappers were demanding.

On Aug. 5, a video emerged showing Salopek, shackled and clad in a beige jumpsuit, as a hostage of the Islamic State group's Egyptian affiliate, the Sinai Province of the Islamic State.

At that point, his captors did not demand money but set a 48-hour deadline for the release of "Muslim women" from Egyptian jails - a reference to the hundreds of female Islamist prisoners detained in a sweeping government crackdown following the 2013 ouster of the country's Islamist president.

"The conclusion was that ... we were dealing with two different organizations," Croatia's Foreign Minister Vesna Pusic told reporters Thursday, speaking in the Croatian coastal town of Rijeka. "One that kidnapped him and the other that identified itself as the Islamic State."

On Wednesday, a still photo circulated by IS supporters on social media appeared to show Salopek's beheaded body, with a knife and the black flag used by the extremist group planted in the sand.

A caption in Arabic said Salopek was killed "for his country's participation in the war against the Islamic State," and contained an inset showing Egyptian newspaper reports declaring Croatia's support for Egypt's war against terrorism and noting Croatia's backing of the Kurds, who have been battling the IS group in Syria and Iraq.

On Thursday, the Islamic State group's radio station announced that its Egyptian affiliate had killed Salopek, the first word from the extremist group.

Authorities still have not confirmed the authenticity of the claim and are continuing the search for Salopek in isolated areas of Egypt, including the restive northern Sinai Peninsula, where Egypt's Islamic State affiliate is based, and the vast Western Desert, which is a gateway to volatile and lawless Libya, home to its own Islamic State branch.

Pusic said she has met with representatives of about 80 other Croatian citizens working in Egypt and the Croatian government is considering stronger security measures for them, including the protection of the Egyptian army.

Islamic State militants in the Middle East and North Africa have taken a number of civilians hostage in recent years. Some European hostages have been released, reportedly in exchange for ransom, while citizens of the United States and Britain, which refuse to pay ransoms, have been killed. IS has released a number of graphic videos showing the beheading of hostages.

France insists it pays no ransoms and does not exchange prisoners, although French President Francois Hollande has acknowledged that other countries have done so, "to help us."

Last week, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said no ransom was paid to secure the release of a French woman held in captivity for five months in Yemen. Last December, the Malian government said it exchanged four prisoners to secure the release of a French hostage who had been held for three years by al-Qaida's North African branch.

In its radio broadcast, the Islamic State group's radio station, Al-Bayan, said that "soldiers of the Caliphate" killed Salopek, "whose country is participating in the war against the Islamic State."

It said the killing came after a deadline passed for "the renegade Egyptian government" to meet his captors' demands to free jailed women.

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