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Parents of Endangered US Hostage Make Plea to Islamic State

Peter Kassig, a 26-year-old American aid worker, appeared in the beheading video of Alan Henning that was released Friday by the militant group.

by Liz Fields
Oct 4 2014, 6:00pm

Photo via AP

The parents of 26-year-old American hostage Peter Kassig issued a desperate video plea to the Islamic State Saturday, just a day after their son, a former military serviceman in Iraq, was featured in the execution video of British aid worker Alan Henning.

In a videotaped statement, Ed Kassig, a school teacher and his wife Paula Kassig, a nurse who works with refugees, implored the Islamic State to "show mercy" and let their son go.

Paula Kassig also spoke directly to Peter, saying they were proud of the humanitarian work he had been doing in Syria at the time of his capture. "Our hearts ache for you to be granted your freedom," she said.

The parents of Peter Kassig issued an appeal on October 4 to Islamic State militants holding their son hostage.

Kassig was captured October 1 last year near Raqqa, Syria, where he was delivering humanitarian assistance to Syrians with the aid organization he had set up called Special Emergency Response and Assistance, or SERA.

His parents said their son had converted to Islam while in captivity, and that his friend who was captured at the same time as Peter had since been released and is safe.

The Islamic State has so far released videotaped executions of four Western hostages, including two American journalists, James Foley and Steven Sotloff, and two British aid workers, David Haines and Alan Henning.

Henning, a 47-year-old father of two, is the latest to be executed by the militants, who have been staging bloodied land grabs across vast areas of Syria and Iraq since June. He was captured last December while trying to transport medical supplies to a hospital in Syria's northwest, according to Reuters.

In all of the videos, the executioner blames the US and allied governments for joining in coordinated airstrikes against the Islamic State. The video of Henning's execution released Friday seemed to mirror the previous beheading tapes, all of which have featured a masked fighter who speaks with a London accent.

Wife of British hostage Alan Henning appeals to Islamic State as UK jets strike Iraq. Read more here.

"Obama, you have started your aerial bombardment of Sham (Syria), which keeps on striking our people, so it is only right that we continue to strike the necks of your people," the executioner, dubbed by Western media as "Jihadi John," said in the latest video.

On Saturday, British Prime Minister David Cameron condemned the terror group in a broadcast message, saying, "we will use all the assets we have ...to defeat this organization which is utterly ruthless, senseless and barbaric in the way it treats people."

The FBI has since claimed that US officials have discovered the identity of the killer, but they refuse to reveal his name or further details.

Obama vows to 'degrade and destroy' Islamic State after Steven Sotloff killing. Read more here.

National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden told the Associated Press that Islamic State militants were holding Kassig captive, and said the US would "continue to use every tool at our disposal — military, diplomatic, law enforcement and intelligence — to try to bring Peter home to his family."

Since enlisting in the army in 2004, Kassig served in a special-ops military unit and was sent to Iraq in 2007. He was discharged for medical reasons that same year, the Associated Press reported.

It is unclear how many hostages the Islamic State currently hold, but militants have at least one other British photojournalist, John Cantlie, in captivity. Cantlie's father also made an appeal to the group on Friday.

Watch the entire VICE News documentary The Islamic State here.

Follow Liz Fields on Twitter: @lianzifields

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