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
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

CAIRO: Fears mounted over the fate of a Croatian abducted in Egypt by Islamic State group militants who have threatened to execute him by the end of Friday (yesterday). Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic said she would talk to her Egyptian counterpart President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi by telephone as the jihadist deadline approached. “Be sure that we are really doing our best to solve this,” she was quoted as saying by the state-run HINA news agency.

The unprecedented abduction in the North African country has rattled foreigners who flock to Egypt to work for multinational companies, while underscoring the jihadists’ reach despite a massive military campaign against them. Although Egypt is fighting an Islamic State group insurgency in the sparsely populated Sinai Peninsula, it had been largely spared the horrific kidnappings conducted by the Islamic State group in Syria, Iraq and Libya.

The father of Tomislav Salopek, who works for the French geoscience company CGG, called on the kidnappers to release the 31-year-old father of two, as Croatian Foreign Minister Vesna Pusic said she was leaving for Cairo to follow the case. “I am asking the people who hold my son to let him return to his family, because his motive to go to your homeland was exclusively to earn bread for his children. Nothing else,” Zlatko Salopek told AFP at the family’s home in the eastern Croatian town of Vrpolje.

Salopek had appeared in an Islamic State video released on the internet on Wednesday, kneeling next to a masked militant holding a knife. Reading from a paper, he said that his captors would execute him in 48 hours if the Egyptian government did not release female prisoners, which has been a demand of Islamist militants over the past two years. Thousands of people, most of them Islamists, have been jailed since the army overthrew Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013 and unleashed a deadly crackdown on his followers.

Kidnapped from car
Salopek was abducted last month on a road running from the west of Cairo. His driver was left unharmed, and police say they have questioned him. It was not clear where the militants were holding Salopek in the vast and mostly desert country. While the jihadists mostly operate in Sinai, in northeastern Egypt, they have also conducted attacks in the country’s western desert over the past two years.

Formerly known as Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis, the group changed its name when it pledged allegiance to IS in November. Last December, the jihadists claimed they killed an American working for petroleum company Apache, also west of Cairo. That attack was at first treated as a deadly carjacking by police. In July, IS said it was behind a car bomb attack targeting the Italian consulate in Cairo-the first such attack against a foreign mission in Egypt since jihadists began their campaign following the crackdown on Islamists.

The video of Salopek was released the day before a lavish ceremony at the Suez Canal to celebrate an expansion of the waterway, with a host of world leaders in attendance. President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, who as army chief toppled Morsi, pledged at the ceremony to “defeat” the militants. The army says it has killed more than 1,000 militants over the past few years, but the insurgency in Sinai appears unabated. The jihadists have killed hundreds of soldiers and policemen, and even destroyed a navy vessel with a wire guided missile last month.- AFP