A new video released by the Islamic State on Sunday claims to show the killing of American hostage Abdul-Rahman Kassig, who was known as Peter Kassig before converting to Islam, USA Today reported.
According to the newspaper, the video showed a masked man standing with a bloodied decapitated head lying at his feet. The man, speaking in English in a British accent, said, “This is Peter Edward Kassig, a U.S. citizen.”
The authenticity of the footage, which was posted on a jihadist website and on Twitter, has not been verified, Reuters reported.
Kassig, of Indianapolis, was deployed as a U.S. Army Ranger in Iraq in 2007before being honorably discharged on medical grounds. He started a bachelor’s program in political science after returning to the U.S., and trained as an emergency medical technician while on a break from his studies. Kassig returned to college after a short marriage fell apart, but he eventually decided to move to Lebanon to work with Palestinian refugees.
“We each get one life and that’s it. This is what I was put here to do,” Kassig told CNN in 2012 about his humanitarian work. “I guess I’m just a hopeless romantic and an idealist,” he added.
Kassig eventually started his own relief organization, called Special Emergency Response and Assistance, and moved to the Syrian border with Turkey. The group smuggled supplies for refugees and hospitals into Syria. He was on his way to the Syrian city of Deir Ezzour for the organization when he was captured on Oct. 1, 2013.
In an op-ed published in The Daily Beast, Kassig’s friend Nick Schwellenbach described him as “an intense guy with a big heart.”
“The Peter Kassig I know is brave, intense and knew the risks he faced as he attempted to help as many Syrians as possible,” Schwellenbach wrote.
The Kassig family launched an emotional appeal for the release of their son, pleading with his captors to show mercy. A spokesperson for the family had earlier revealed Kassig had converted to Islam in 2013 and adopted the name Abdul-Rahman.
“We are so very proud of you and the work you have done to bring humanitarian aid to the Syrian people,” Kassig’s mother Paula said in personal message to her son.
The news about Kassig’s kidnapping was kept silent until he appeared in the video on Oct. 3, which his family said was in accordance with the wishes of his kidnappers. “His family, along with friends and colleagues inside and outside Syria, have worked tirelessly, and quietly, to secure his release,” the family said in a statement.
The Islamic State is believed to hold several other Western hostages. A recent report in the New York Times revealed that ISIS militants subjected some of the hostages to brutal torture, including waterboarding and mock executions.