Islamic State militants have threatened to kill another American in a video released on Friday that shows the murder of the British aid worker Alan Henning.
Isis identified the man as Peter Edward Kassig, and said he would be the next western hostage to die unless the US-led coalition stopped its bombing campaign against the militant group in Iraq and Syria.
A statement by Kassig’s parents, Ed and Paula Kassig of Indianapolis, confirmed that he was a hostage. They said he was captured in October last year, while undertaking humanitarian work in Syria.
Kassig appears at the end of the Henning video, as his captor threatens he will be killed in retribution for US-led air strikes. “Obama, you have started your aerial bombardment of Sham, which keeps on striking our people, so it is only right that we continue to strike the neck of your people,” a masked militant in the video said, referring to the area of Iraq and Syria overrun by Isis.
Kassig’s parents appealed for support and expressed sympathy for Henning’s family. “The Kassig family extends our concern for the family of Alan Henning. We have read about his work and his generous character with great respect and admiration.
“We ask everyone around the world to pray for the Henning family, for our son, and for the release of all innocent people being held hostage in the Middle East and around the globe.”
The family statement referred to him by the name of Abdul-Rahman Kassig, saying he had converted to Islam in captivity.
Kassig enlisted in the US army in 2004, according to his army records obtained by the Associated Press, and became a ranger, ultimately serving in the 75th Ranger Regiment, an army special operations unit.
An Indianapolis native, Kassig was deployed to Iraq in 2007, according to an interview he gave to Time magazine. He was honourably discharged from the army for medical reasons, his family said. He attended Butler University in Indianapolis between 2011 and 2013 to study political science and government, according to his LinkedIn profile.
Kassig went to Beirut, the capital of Lebanon, during spring break 2012. “I was interested in what I could learn about the Syrian crisis first-hand and what I could do to help and raise awareness about the crisis amongst my peers back at home in the United States,” he told Time. He had been taking an entry-level Arabic course there.
He described his travels throughout Lebanon, particularly his experiences volunteering “on a small scale” in a Palestinian refugee camp in southern Beirut, as well as in a hospital in Tripoli, Lebanon, “offering my services as a trauma medic to Syrian refugees who have been wounded in the fighting in Syria”.
In 2012 he founded Special Emergency and Response and Assistance (Sera), a “medically-oriented emergency relief organization” serving the internally displaced and refugees. The organization was focused on the civil war in Syria.
Sera, a small operation, specialized in “non-material aid and assistance”, which largely means providing medical training, coordinating relief for “high-risk” medical cases and coordinating the delivery of medical supplies to children and civilians to “field camps, refugee camps and hospitals located in Lebanon and Syria.
Photographs on the organization’s website shows Kassig providing training and medical treatment.
He was also the Middle East representative for TYR solutions Ltd, a British private security firm, according to his LinkedIn profile.
Kassig’s family said he was undertaking a project for Sera when he was captured on 1 October last year, on his way to Deir Ezzour in eastern Syria.
Lisa Monaco, President Obama’s top counter-terrorism adviser, said the administration had seen the latest video and was assessing it.
“This is again yet another just very clear example of the brutality of this group, and why the president has articulated and is moving out in a comprehensive way to degrade and destroy Isil,” Monaco said, using the administration’s preferred acronym for the group.
“Our hearts go out to the British aid worker who we believe is in that video, and to the remaining hostages and to their families.”