ALGIERS, Algeria – A French citizen was kidnapped by suspected Islamic militants while hiking in a mountainous Algerian region that is a known hideout for North Africa's al Qaeda branch, officials said Monday.
The kidnapping comes after the Islamic State extremist group issued a call for attacks on Westerners, particularly French citizens.
An Algerian security official in the mountainous city of Tizi Ouzou, in the region where the kidnapping happened, said the 55-year-old man was a mountain guide from the French city of Nice and was hiking with two friends when he was abducted Sunday.
The three had spent the night at a ski lodge near the town of Tikdjda some 65 miles from the capital Algiers.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak to the media. The area is now being combed by army and elements of the local guard.
The Frenchman's companions were released and they alerted authorities about the kidnapping, the security official said.
The French Foreign Ministry, in a statement, confirmed the kidnapping and said it had received no claim of responsibility. It didn't identify the man who was abducted.
On Sunday, the spokesman for the Islamic State group, an extremist splinter of al Qaeda, called on followers to kill Europeans and Americans, and "especially the spiteful and filthy French."
Responding to the statement at the time, French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said he was confident of the country's security.
"This threat to kill civilians, added to the execution of hostages and to the massacres, is yet another demonstration of the barbarism of these terrorists, justifying our fight without truce or pause," Cazeneuve said Monday. "France is not afraid because it is prepared to respond to their threats."
Algeria has been battling Islamist militants since the 1990s and in recent years has confined them to a few mountainous regions in the north of the country and in the Sahara desert in the extreme south.
There are also criminal elements in the Kabylie mountains that use kidnapping and ransoms to make money.
Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb made millions of dollars over the last decade kidnapping Western tourists in the Sahara Desert.