The American threatened in an ISIS video showing the beheading of British aid worker Alan Henning on Friday is a former Army Ranger who served in the Iraq war and then founded a humanitarian organization to help refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria. Abdul-Rahman Kassig, 26, who changed his name from Peter, ran the aid group Special Emergency Response and Assistance, which has suspended operations while his family, friends and colleagues have worked to secure his release.
Kassig's parents, Ed and Paula Kassig of Indianapolis, confirmed that their son was the man threatened with death in the gruesome video of Henning's beheading Friday. They declined to speak with reporters, saying in a brief statement that they grieved for Henning and asking "everyone around the world to pray for the Henning family, for our son, and for the release of all innocent people being held hostage in the Middle East and around the globe."
Kassig was undertaking a project for SERA when he was captured Oct. 1, 2013, on his way to Deir Ezzour in eastern Syria, a representative for the family said Friday. Since then, he has converted to Islam and adopted the name Abdul-Rahman Kassig, and "the family understands from speaking to former hostages that Kassig's faith has provided him comfort during his long captivity," the family spokesman said.
The family released a statement offering condolences to Henning's family on Friday:"The Kassig family extends our concern for the family of Alan Henning. We have read about his work and his generous character with great respect and admiration. We ask everyone around the world to pray for the Henning family, for our son, and for the release of all innocent people being held hostage in the Middle East and around the globe."
Kassig traveled to Lebanon in 2012 while on spring break from his studies at Butler University in Indianapolis, he told Time magazine in a January 2013 interview. The university confirmed Friday that Kassig was enrolled in 2011 and 2012, majoring in political science. "I believe that how and why we do what we do is equal in importance to what we do," he told the magazine. "It's about showing people that we care, that someone is looking out for those who might be overlooked or who have slipped through the cracks in the system for whatever reason.
- ISIS Releases Video Showing Beheading of Alan Henning
- Alan Henning's Wife Pleads With ISIS for His Release
— M. Alex Johnson and Shanshan Dong