BEIRUT (AFP) – The Islamic State group on Sunday released a video claiming the beheading of US aid worker Peter Kassig in a warning to Washington as it prepares to send more troops to Iraq.
The same video showed the gruesome simultaneous beheadings of at least 18 men described as Syrian military personnel, the latest in a series of mass executions and other atrocities carried out by IS.
In the undated video, a man who appears to be the same British-accented jihadist who beheaded previous Western hostages stands above a severed head.
“This is Peter Edward Kassig, a US citizen of your country,” the black-clad masked executioner says, urging US President Barack Obama to send more troops back to the region to confront IS.
“Here we are burying the first American crusader in Dabiq, eagerly waiting for the remainder of your armies to arrive,” the militant said, referring to a northern Syrian town.
Kassig’s family said they were awaiting official confirmation on the death of the former US soldier, who risked his life to provide medical treatment and aid to those suffering from Syria’s civil war.
“We are aware of the news reports being circulated about our treasured son and are waiting for confirmation from the government as to the authenticity of these reports,” Ed and Paula Kassig said in a statement.
They urged the media not to publish or broadcast images released by IS, saying this was “playing into the hostage-takers’ hands”.
“We prefer our son is written about and remembered for his important work and the love he shared with friends and family, not in the manner the hostage-takers would use to manipulate Americans and further their cause.”
Kassig would be the fifth Western hostage killed by IS in recent months, after two US reporters and two British aid workers were beheaded in videos released online.
Sunday’s video was substantially different from the previous IS recordings. Kassig was not shown alive in the video and no direct threats were made against other Western hostages being held.
British Prime Minister David Cameron said he was “horrified” by Kassig’s “cold-blooded murder” while French Prime Minister Manuel Valls condemned it as a “barbaric act”.
The 26-year-old, who converted to Islam and took the first name Abdul-Rahman, was taken captive last year and was threatened in an October 3 video showing the beheading of British aid worker Alan Henning.
Kassig’s parents had pleaded for his release, highlighting his humanitarian work and conversion to Islam.
Kassig had founded an aid group through which he trained some 150 civilians to provide medical aid to people in Syria. His group also gave food, cooking supplies, clothing and medicine to the needy.
He wrote to his parents saying: “If I do die, I figure that at least you and I can seek refuge and comfort in knowing that I went out as a result of trying to alleviate suffering and helping those in need.”