French village in shock after Catholic named as IS killer
A former French Catholic schoolboy has been positively identified as one of the Islamic State (IS) killing squad responsible for the execution of an American hostage.
Maxime Hauchard, who has been tracked by the French government for years, was identified by a Parisian prosecutor who saw the brutal scenes of Peter Kassig’s execution.
In another scene from the jihadist propaganda film, Hauchard – dressed in battle fatigues and wearing a thick beard – can be seen dragging his victim to the execution site where he and a large group of IS militants – including the alleged British killer known as Jihadi John – force kidnapped Syrian soldiers to kneel before beheading them.
Referring to images of the butchery posted last Sunday, France’s Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said: “The posted video has been analysed by intelligence services, and this analysis appears to establish with a very strong probability that a French national may have directly participated in carrying out these abject crimes.”
Mr Cazeneuve said Hauchard travelled to Syria to join the terror group in August 2013 after spending time in the French-speaking north African country Mauritania.
The 22-year-old appeared on French television in July, describing life as a jihadist in Syria as being “like a holiday” and said he welcomed death so he would be known as a “martyr”.
Hauchard, who comes from a rural village in Normandy, was described by former friends as a mild-mannered scooter-parts salesman until he converted to Islam from Catholicism at the age of 17.
Villagers in Bosc-Roger-en-Roumois, the town in which he was raised, expressed their shock at discovering his involvement with the murders.
One former neighbour said: “Maxime did well at school, and we often saw him mowing the lawn or enjoying himself with his friends. He got on with everyone.
‘He drank alcohol, and liked to party, but was never any trouble to his parents. He was just an ordinary French lad from a Catholic family.”
Hauchard’s retired parents were described as being “absolutely mortified” by one of their neighbours.The identification of Mr Hauchard has put pressure on the French government to prevent further citizens from being radicalised by religious extremism. A public-awareness programme is due to be rolled out in January.
PIC: Ed and Paula Kassig speak during a press conference after their son was shown being executed by IS terrorists