The Islamic State terror organization (IS) claimed on Wednesday that it had executed two men — one Chinese, the other Norwegian — two months after the group first announced that it had taken the prisoners hostage and was willing to ransom them.
The radical insurgent group published purported photos of the men's bodies in the latest issue of its English-language magazine, Dabiq, on Wednesday. Accompanying the images is the caption, "Executed after being abandoned by kafir nations and organizations." (Kafir means "infidel" in Arabic.)
The men had been identified in an earlier issue of the magazine as Ole Johan Grimsgaard-Ofstad, a 48-year-old from Oslo, and Fan Jinghui, a 50-year-old from Beijing.
China's government has not responded to the alleged death of its citizen, while Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Rune Bjastad told the Associated Press that his office had "no confirmation yet" of the report's accuracy.
The September issue of Dabiq that identified the two men featured full-page, advertisement-style listings showing pictures of both of them, labeling the pair as "for sale." The images listed a "telegram number" for "whoever would like to pay the ransom for his release and transfer."
"Telegram" might refer to a secure-messaging app of the same name that lets users instantly message friends or strangers without necessarily knowing their number, and which is growing in popularity among jihadists.
The militants provided no details about when or where the hostages were captured.
Fan's listing described him as a "freelance consultant."
On January 18, Grimsgaard-Ofstad posted a photo on his Facebook account that appeared to show him in Turkey near the Syrian border. Six days later, the Norwegian posted another update saying he had reached the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib. "I finally made it," he wrote.
Since waging a bloodied insurgency across vast areas of Syria and Iraq last summer, IS has routinely captured hostages for ransom but has also demanded that coalition forces fighting the group cease airstrikes or other military activity in exchange for the release of prisoners. In recent days the United States, France, and other nations have stepped up airstrikes against IS in the wake of the deadly Paris attacks last Friday, for which IS claimed responsibility.