BEIRUT (AP) – The Islamic State group has beheaded Peter Kassig, releasing a video Sunday showing a masked militant standing over the severed head of a man it said was the former US Army Ranger-turned-aid worker, who was seized while delivering relief supplies in Syria last year.
President Barack Obama confirmed Kassig’s slaying after a US review of the video, which also showed the mass beheadings of a dozen Syrian soldiers.
The 26-year-old Kassig, who founded an aid group to help Syrians caught in their country’s brutal civil war, “was taken from us in an act of pure evil by a terrorist group that the world rightly associates with inhumanity,” Obama said in a statement.
He denounced the extremist group, which he said “revels in the slaughter of innocents, including Muslims, and is bent only on sowing death and destruction.”
With Kassig’s death, the Islamic State group has killed five Westerners it was holding. American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff were beheaded, as were British aid workers David Haines and Alan Henning.
Unlike previous videos of slain Western hostages, the footage released Sunday did not show the decapitation of Kassig or the moments leading up to his death.
“This is Peter Edward Kassig, a US citizen … who fought against the Muslims in Iraq,” said the black-clad militant, who spoke with a British accent that was distorted in the video, apparently to disguise his identity. Previous videos featured a militant with a British accent that the FBI says it has identified, though it hasn’t named him publicly.
The footage released Sunday identifies the militants’ location as Dabiq, a town in northern Syria that the Islamic State group uses as the title of its English-language propaganda magazine and where they believe an apocalyptic battle between Muslims and their enemies will occur.
The high-definition video also showed the beheadings of about a dozen men identified as Syrian military officers and pilots, all dressed in blue jumpsuits. The black-clad militant warns that US soldiers will meet a similar fate.
“We say to you, Obama: You claim to have withdrawn from Iraq four years ago,” the militant said. “Here you are: You have not withdrawn. Rather, you hid some of your forces behind your proxies.” A US-led coalition is targeting the Islamic State group in airstrikes, supporting Western-backed Syrian rebels, Kurdish fighters and the Iraqi military.
Kassig, who served in the US Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment, a special operations unit, deployed to Iraq in 2007. After being medically discharged, he returned to the Middle East in 2012 and formed a relief group, Special Emergency Response and Assistance, to aid Syrian refugees.
A certified EMT, Kassig had delivered food and medical supplies and provided trauma care to wounded Syrians before being captured in eastern Syria on October 1, 2013. Friends say he converted to Islam in captivity and took the first name Abdul-Rahman.
In a statement issued as he flew back to Washington from the Asia-Pacific region, Obama said Kassig “was a humanitarian who worked to save the lives of Syrians injured and dispossessed” by war. The president offered prayers and condolences to Kassig’s family.
“We cannot begin to imagine their anguish at this painful time,” he said.