‘He was taken from us in an act of pure evil’: Obama pays tribute to Peter Kassig as White House confirms ISIS video of the beheaded US aid worker IS genuine
Video showing aid worker Peter Kassig’s severed head released Sunday
This afternoon, President Obama paid tribute to 26-year-old war veteran
Declared ‘he was taken from us in an act of pure evil’ by the Islamic State
Added terror group ‘revels in slaughter of innocents, including Muslims’
Peter’s parents have also released emotional statement about his death
Said they hoped he will be remembered for his work and love for others
Earlier today, White House confirmed ISIS’s graphic video was genuine
Mr Kassig was captured in Syria in October last year while providing aid
Video of his murder also shows execution of dozens of Syrian soldiers
In last letter to parents, received in June, Peter said he was ‘scared’ to die
The hostage, who converted to Islam while imprisoned, told his parents that he prayed every day and was not angry about his situation ‘in terms of my faith’!! The letter ended with the words: ‘I love you.’
President Barack Obama today paid tribute to American aid worker Peter Kassig as an ISIS video purporting to show a militant standing above his severed head was confirmed as genuine. Speaking as he flew back to Washington from Hawaii, Obama said the 26-year-old veteran was ‘taken from us in an act of pure evil by a terrorist group that the world rightly associates with inhumanity’. He said the Islamic State, which now controls a third of Iraq and Syria, ‘revels in the slaughter of innocents, including Muslims, and is bent only on sowing death and destruction.’ And he described Peter as a ‘humanitarian who worked to save the lives of Syrians injured and dispossessed’, adding: ‘We cannot begin to imagine [his family’s] anguish at this painful time.’
Obama’s statement, made as he returned from his trip to the Asia Pacific region, came just minutes after the White House announced that the 16-minute long ISIS propaganda video was real. It also followed an emotional statement from Peter’s parents about the fate of their ‘treasured’ son, who was captured by the Islamic State while providing aid in Syria last October. In the release, Ed and Paula Kassig, from Indianapolis, said they hoped their son would be remembered for his ‘important work’ and his love for others.
‘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,’ the said. ‘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.’ Tragically, the couple also added that they were waiting for the U.S. Government to verify the authenticity of the ISIS video – something that has since been done.
They are yet to release a statement following the confirmation of their son’s death. The video showing Peter’s severed head – which was released by the terror group on Sunday morning – also featured the graphic mass murder of dozens of Syrian soldiers and airmen. Footage shows the victims being led to a place in the desert by uniformed jihadis who each pick up a knife before sawing off victims’ heads. The militants claim U.S. soldiers will meet a similar fate. Speaking in the now-familiar London accent of ISIS executioner-cum-spokesman Jihadi John, a masked jihadist warns: ‘To Obama, the dog of Rome. Today we are slaughtering the soldiers of Bashar and tomorrow we will be slaughtering your soldiers.
‘And with Allah’s permission we will break this final and last crusade. And the Islamic State will soon, like your puppet David Cameron said, begin to slaughter your people in your streets.’ It comes a month after Peter – who changed his name to Abdul-Rahman after converting to Islam – was paraded at the end of a graphic video showing the murder of British aid worker Alan Henning. On Sunday afternoon, U.S. intelligence agencies were trying to determine whether the latest video by ISIS, which now controls a third of Syria and Iraq, was real. They have now concluded it is.
National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said that the administration is ‘appalled by the brutal murder of an innocent American.’ She added that the White House expresses its deepest condolences to Peter’s family and friends. Meanwhile, British Prime Minister David Cameron said he was ‘horrified by the cold blooded murder’ of Peter and claimed that Islamic State militants ‘have again shown their depravity’. Mr Kassig was captured in Syria in October last year while providing medical training and humanitarian aid to victims of the country’s conflict.
THE KASSIG FAMILY’S STATEMENT
‘We are aware of the news reports being circulated about our treasured son and are waiting for confirmation from the government as to the authenticity of these reports. We will have no other statement at this time and ask that you please respect our privacy. ‘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.’
Previous beheading videos showed a desert landscape but in this latest release appears to be in front of a town with fields in the distance. Mr Kassig’s apparent murder is not shown. At the end of the video, which intersperses various executions with file footage of U.S. forces in Iraq and later clips of Islamic State battles, a bloodied, decapitated head is shown at the feet of a militant wearing khaki boots. The masked militant may be Jihadi John, the man believed be from Britain who wielded the knife in four previous murders of Western hostages. His voice sounds similar to the voice of the masked militant who has featured in previous videos. and he has what sounds like a London accent despite his voice being distorted. However, the news of Peter’s death broke hours after Jihadi John was reportedly injured in U.S. airstrikes on Saturday night.
In the video, the militant says: ‘This is Peter Edward Kassig, a U.S. citizen of your country. Peter, who fought against the Muslims in Iraq while serving as a soldier under the American army, doesn’t have much to say. His previous cell mates have already spoken on his behalf.
‘But we say to you Obama … you claim to have withdrawn from Iraq four years ago. We said to you then that you are liars, that you have not withdrawn and that if you had withdrawn that you would return, even if after some time. ‘You would return. Here you are. You have not withdrawn. Rather, you hid some of your forces behind your proxies and withdrawn the rest. Your forces will return, greater in number than they were before. You will return and your proxies will not benefit you. ‘And we also remind you of the haunting words that our Sheikh Abu Musab al-Zarqawi told you. The spark has been lit here in Iraq and its heat will continue to intensify by Allah’s permission until it burns the crusader army in Dabiq.
‘And here we are, burying the first crusader in Dabiq. Eagerly awaiting for the remainder of your armies to arrive.’ A dateline on the video says it has been shot in Dabiq, which is the location where Islamic State militants believe a decisive final battle will be fought with Western forces. Footage also shows the militant leading the mass execution of Syrian military personnel by jihadis at a desert location. Unlike the apparent murders of Western hostages, in which the camera cuts away at the moment their throats are cut, these killings are shown in full. It comes five months after Peter wrote a final letter to his parents, in which he revealed that he was ‘scared to die’ and saddened by the pain the ordeal has caused his family, BBC News reported. In the letter, which the Kassigs received on June 2, he wrote: ‘I am obviously pretty scared to die but the hardest part is not knowing, wondering, hoping, and wondering if I should even hope at all.’
Shocked: British Prime Minister David Cameron said he was ‘horrified by the cold blooded murder’ of Peter and claimed that Islamic State (also known as ISIL) militants ‘have again shown their depravity’
He continued: ‘If I do die, I figure that at least you and I can seek refuge and comfort in knowing that I went out as a result of trying to alleviate suffering and helping those in need. ‘Don’t worry Dad, if I go down, I won’t go thinking anything but what I know to be true. That you and mom love me more than the moon and the stars.’ The hostage told his parents that he prayed every day and was not angry about his situation ‘in terms of my faith’. The letter ended with the words: ‘I love you.’ Mr Kassig’s parents broke their silence over his captivity last month because ‘the dynamics’ had changed and they feared for his life. Their son had formed the aid organisation Special Emergency Response and Assistance, or SERA, in Turkey to provide aid and assistance to Syrian refugees. He began delivering food and medical supplies to Syrian refugee camps in 2012 and was also a trained medical assistant who provided trauma care to injured Syrian civilians and helped train 150 civilians in providing medical aid.
Mr and Mrs Kassig said they had been doing all they could to free their son but were silent about his plight for a year at the instructions of the IS militants. Mr Kassig told U.S. show CBS This Morning: ‘They demand. They simply demand.’ His wife added: ‘We have sent them back messages that we cannot do what you ask. We have tried. But we don’t have the power to do it.’ Mrs Kassig told NBC’s Today show that the couple received an audio recording of their son in which he said he thought his time was running out. The couple also released excerpts from a letter written by Peter in which he feared ‘it may very well be coming down to the wire here’. The latest video is the fourth time this year that IS has published footage showing the murder of Western hostages. The beheading of American journalist James Foley was released online in August, while videos of the killings of British aid workers David Haines and Alan Henning were posted in September and October, respectively.
A British Muslim leader condemned the latest killing. Shaukat Warraich, editor of Imamsonline.com, said: ‘The murder of Abdul-Rahman Kassig is an affront to Islam. The murderous criminals are a stain on humanity and their wicked ways must be stopped. ‘To take the life of another, one whose life has been dedicated to providing aid to our brothers and sisters suffering in Syria, Iraq and the surrounding regions further highlights the inhumane, revolting and unIslamic terrorists for what they really are.’ Former British prime minister Sir John Major described the murder as ’13th-century barbarism’.
He told BBC1’s The Andrew Marr Show: ‘The people they are murdering, which makes it doubly worse, triply worse, are people who actually went there to help those in difficulty and in need. ‘They are being murdered in the most brutal ways, almost beyond belief.’ Mitchell Prothero, a journalist who met Mr Kassig in 2012 in Beirut, was among those paying tribute to him yesterday. ‘His murder is a senseless crime against someone who was willing to risk his life alongside people in a foreign land, without being paid or even congratulated, simply because he couldn’t bear to not use his skills as a medic to help them,’ he said. ‘His murder, as much as it devastates his family and friends, is just as big a loss to the people of Syria and Lebanon, and the world.’
Mr Prothero, who writes for the US-based McClatchy news service, added: ‘Selfless compassion and courage exist in people everywhere, but I’ve met few people who had as much of both as Peter Kassig.’ In his letter to his parents, Mr Kassig had told of his ordeal, saying: ‘This is the hardest thing a man can go through, the stress and fear are incredible. ‘They tell us you have abandoned us and/or don’t care but of course we know you are doing everything you can and more.
On whether Britain is in a position to do something about the situation, Sir John added: ‘I don’t think we can do all that much about it alone, but can we contribute to helping other people to do something about it – I think the answer is undoubtedly yes. ‘Though unless we want the old argument that the crusaders have come in to attack, we really need to support other Arabs on the ground and use our power in other ways to help them – surveillance, training, provide weapons and so forth – I think that is a proper role for us.’ Shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander said: ‘If this video is authenticated, all of us in the UK will feel revulsion at this latest sickening murder. It only emphasises the scale of the threat posed by Isil and the importance of the international community working together to confront that threat.’ The militant Islamic State group has beheaded and shot dead hundreds of captives – mainly Syrian and Iraqi soldiers – during its sweep across the two countries, and has celebrated mass killings in a series of slickly produced but extremely graphic videos. The group has declared an Islamic caliphate in the areas under its control in Syria and Iraq, which it governs according to a harsh version of Shariah law. The U.S. began launching air strikes in Iraq and Syria earlier this year in a bid to halt the group’s rapid advance and eventually degrade and destroy it.
PETER KASSIG’S FINAL LETTER
Peter Kassig’s apparent murder comes five months after he penned a final letter to his parents, saying he was ‘scared to die’. In the letter, which the Kassigs received on June 2, he wrote: ‘I am obviously pretty scared to die but the hardest part is not knowing, wondering, hoping, and wondering if I should even hope at all ‘If I do die, I figure that at least you and I can seek refuge and comfort in knowing that I went out as a result of trying to alleviate suffering and helping those in need.’ The hostage, who converted to Islam while imprisoned, told his parents that he prayed every day and was not angry about his situation ‘in terms of my faith’. The letter ended with the words: ‘I love you.’
ISLAMIC STATE’S WESTERN VICTIMS
- James Foley – this 40-year-old American freelance photojournalist was documenting the Syrian civil war when he was snatched in November 2012 in the country’s north west. His murder was shown in a video released in August.
- Steven Sotloff – an Israeli-American journalist working for both TIME and The Jerusalem Post who was kidnapped in Aleppo, Syria, in 2013. The 31-year-old’s apparent beheading was shown in a video released on September 2.
- David Haines – the 44-year-old British humanitarian aid worker was taken hostage while working at a refugee camp in Idlib, Syria, near the Turkish border. His abduction only became public when he appeared in the Sotloff execution video. He was apparently killed on camera in a video released on September 13.
- Alan Henning – this volunteer aide worker from Britain, 47, had been working with Islamic charities to deliver food and water to people affected by Syria’s civil war. He was abducted in the city of Al-Dana when that area fell under the control of Islamic State fighters in December 2013. A video showing his apparent murder was released on October 3.
TIMELINE OF BRUTAL ISLAMIC STATE KILLINGS
By Neil Lancefield, Press Association
The murder of US aid worker Peter Kassig was the fifth such killing to be filmed and released by the Islamic State (IS). Here is a timeline of events, starting with the days leading up to the death of the first hostage, US journalist James Foley.
- Summer 2014 – A rescue mission fails to free Mr Foley from a secret location where he is being held by IS. The American freelance journalist, 40, was captured two years earlier.
- August 13: Mr Foley’s family receive a message that he will be murdered.
- August 19: al-Furqan Media, which is controlled by the terror group, releases a video appearing to show Mr Foley’s killing. His death apparently happened at some time in the previous week. Social media bosses are forced to act swiftly in banning both the video and still images of the beheading, while concerns mount for fellow reporter and captive Steven Sotloff, who is seen pleading for the US to stop air strikes in Iraq at the end of the video.
- August 20: David Cameron cuts short a family holiday in Cornwall to hold meetings in Downing Street over the ‘shocking and depraved’ murder. Meanwhile, US President Barack Obama remains defiant over his country’s war on terror. He says: ‘We will be vigilant and we will be relentless.’
- August 21: The killer is reported to be a British man who goes under the moniker ‘Jihadi John’.
- September 2: Mr Cameron condemns the ‘disgusting and despicable’ video apparently showing Mr Sotloff wearing an orange jumpsuit and being beheaded by IS militants. The alleged killer speaks with a British accent, prompting suggestions he is the man who murdered Mr Foley. It emerges that a British hostage, now known to be aid worker David Haines, is also under threat.
- September 4: At the start of a Nato summit in Wales, leaders of the Western alliance show a united front in response to terror threats. Mr Cameron and Mr Obama insist they will not weaken in the face of threats from IS terrorists. The Prime Minister refuses to rule out joining the US in air strikes on IS. He says Britain must ‘use everything we have in our armoury’ to squash the terrorists out of existence.
- September 5: Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond joins Mr Cameron in saying the Government will not hold back on launching air strikes, and says threats on Mr Haines’s life by his captors will not deter the UK from taking action. The Nato summit ends with a pledge to ‘degrade and defeat’ IS militants.
- September 9: Defence Secretary Michael Fallon confirms Britain will supply £1.6 million of machine guns and ammunition to Kurdish forces fighting IS militants in northern Iraq as part of a burgeoning international effort to drive back the jihadists.
- September 10: Mr Obama authorises air strikes inside Syria for the first time as well as an expansion of strikes in Iraq.
- September 13: A video showing the murder of British aid worker Mr Haines is released. The video, which involves the 44-year-old saying Mr Cameron and former PM Tony Blair should be held responsible for his death, is widely condemned. It comes hours after Mr Haines’s family issue a plea to his captors to contact them. The clip also includes a threat to kill a second British hostage.
- September 14: Mr Cameron calls an emergency meeting of its Cobra committee in the wake of the murder. The next British hostage, 47-year-old minicab driver Alan Henning, is named as the man shown in the video.
- September 19: Islamic militants release a propaganda video featuring a British hostage believed to be journalist John Cantlie.
- September 23: Islamic extremists release a new propaganda video appearing to feature Mr Cantlie. The clip is the second showing the journalist to be circulated by IS militants in less than a week. It comes as the US – backed by Arab allies – carries out its first wave of air strikes on IS militants in Syria.
- September 24: Britain appears ready to ramp up its military involvement in the struggle against IS, as Mr Cameron addresses the United Nations in New York.
- September 25: FBI director James Comey is reported to have confirmed that the identity of Jihadi John has been uncovered. However, he refused to give the individual’s name publicly.
- September 26: MPs vote by 524 to 43 to endorse attacks on the militants in Iraq in support of the United States-led coalition. The vote clears the way for RAF warplanes stationed in Cyprus to begin combat operations as soon as suitable targets are identified.
- September 27: RAF Tornado GR4 fighter bombers carry out their first sortie over Iraq since Parliament gave the green light for air strikes without finding any targets to attack.
- October 3: A video showing the brutal murder of Mr Henning, 47, by IS militants is posted on the internet. Mr Cameron vows to ‘hunt down’ the ‘repulsive’ terrorists responsible for the beheading.
- October 7: Former Guantanamo Bay detainee Moazzam Begg claims he offered to help the Government secure the release of Mr Henning but was rebuffed. Mr Begg says he believed he knew those who held the murdered aid worker and had helped secure the release of hostages from extremists in Syria in the past.
- October 13: Mr Cantlie’s sister urges IS to ‘restart dialogue’ with his family.
- November 16: IS releases a video showing the beheading of American hostage Peter Kassig. The IS militant in the footage speaks with a London accent and appears to be Jihadi John. Mr Kassig was captured in Syria in October 2013 while providing medical training and humanitarian aid to victims of the country’s conflict.