The boy seen in a video disseminated by Islamic State last week executing an Israeli hostage has reportedly been recognized by classmates in his native France. Schoolchildren in Toulouse said the boy was their classmate, AFP reported.
“Concerning the formal identification of this person, I cannot tell you anything,” said Jacques Caillaut, the school inspector in the Haute-Garonne department that includes Toulouse.
“Children from the Vauquelin College have recognized one of their classmates, but we must remain cautious.”
Caillaut told AFP that the pupils in his district were so shocked by the video that they required professional counseling.
France has launched an investigation into the video, which shows the boy alongside an older Islamic State terrorist who speaks fluent French.
French officials are investigating whether the child shown in the video has ties to an al-Qaida-inspired gunman who killed seven people in and near Toulouse in March 2012, a police source said.
The video shows Muhammad Musallam, from Jerusalem, sitting in a room wearing an orange jumpsuit, talking about how he had been recruited and trained by the Mossad.
It shows Musallam being escorted to a field and shot by a child, described by an older, French-speaking fighter as one of “cubs of the caliphate.”
A French police source told Reuters the intelligence service believes the French-speaking fighter was Sabri Essid, the half-brother of Frenchman Mohamed Merah, who in 2012 killed three soldiers, a rabbi and three Jewish children before he was shot dead by police.
The source said they were also trying to determine whether the child was Essid’s son.
March 11 was three years to the day since Merah began his 10-day killing spree in the Toulouse region of southwestern France.
The Interior Ministry declined to comment on the video. Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said that in May, Merah’s sister Souad likely traveled to Syria with her children.
More than 400 French citizens have traveled to fight with terrorists in Syria and Iraq. More than 100 have returned home after fighting there, according to French officials.Reuters contributed to this report.