Toulouse (France), March 14: A child who appears to execute an Arab Israeli in a video released this week by the Islamic State group is said to have been recognised by classmates in France, an official said.
The schools inspector in the Haute-Garonne district in southern France said students in the city of Toulouse believe they recognised the boy, who appears to be no more than 12.
"Concerning the formal identification of this person, I cannot tell you anything," Jacques Caillaut told reporters on Friday. "Children from the Vauquelin College have recognised one of their classmates, but we must remain cautious."
Shocked students had seen the video on Wednesday and counselling was put in place for them, he said. According to the inspector, students at the Vauquelin secondary school would have known the boy when he was still in primary school in Toulouse.
"There is a child who has not been enrolled at the Vergers (primary) school since March 14, 2014, but I do not have any other details," Caillaut said.
French officials on Thursday launched a formal investigation into the video, which also features a French-speaking man.
According to sources close to the investigation, the man is probably Sabri Essid, who has close links to French jihadist gunman Mohamed Merah, the killer of three soldiers, three students and a teacher in southern France in 2012.
The boy in the video shoots the hostage in the forehead
In the video, a youth identifying himself as 19-year-old Mohammed Said Ismail Musallam is shown kneeling in front of the boy. A man stands at his side.
Dressed in an orange jumpsuit that is standard in videos of IS executions, the man seen kneeling recounts how he was recruited by Israeli intelligence, a claim denied by his father. The man standing nearby, speaking in French, issues threats against Jews in France, before the boy walks around in front of the hostage and shoots him in the forehead using a pistol.
The boy, who shouts "Allahu Akbar" ("God is greatest" in Arabic), then shoots the man four more times as he lies on the ground. Sources familiar with the case have said the boy may be 31-year-old Essid's stepson.
Known to intelligence services as a key figure in the radical Islamist community in the southern city of Toulouse, Essid is suspected to have left France for Syria last year.