The terrorist group ISIS has released a horrifying new hostage execution video, in which an ISIS fighter stands over a severed head and claims that it belonged to Abdul Rahman Kassig, an American aid worker who was known as Peter Kassig until he converted to Islam while in captivity.
Unlike ISIS's previous hostage execution videos, however, Kassig was not shown alive before his death, or murdered on camera.
However, the video, which is nearly sixteen minutes long, does depict the mass beheading of a group of Syrian hostages, apparently soldiers fighting for the army of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. Addressing President Obama, the video's narrator says that " today we are slaughtering the soldiers of Bashar and tomorrow we'll be slaughtering your soldiers."
Kassig's family released a statement on Sunday:
"The family respectfully asks that the news media avoid playing into the hostage-takers' hands and refrain from publishing or broadcasting photographs or video distributed by the hostage-takers. 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 was a 26-year-old American aid worker. For the past several years, he devoted his life to helping Syrian civilians.
In 2013, while already working with Syrian refugees in Lebanon, Kassig founded an NGO called Special Emergency Response and Assistance (SERA). On a fundraising website he set up for SERA, he wrote that "I felt that more could be done to help people and that the most effective way to bring assistance was through a close connection to those who were in desperate need, by meeting them where they were."
If the video's account of Kassig's death is true, then he is the fifth western hostage who ISIS has beheaded. The organization previously murdered two American journalists, Steven Sotloff and James Foley, as well as two British aid workers, Alan Henning and David Haines. Each of the previous victims was beheaded on-camera. Each of them was either working to protect Syrian civilians directly, or to tell the stories of the attacks civilians have suffered during Syria's long and bloody civil war.