The parents of the U.S. aid worker threatened in Islamic State's latest beheading video have appealed to his captors to "show mercy" and let him go.
Ed and Paula Kassig of the Midwestern U.S. state of Indiana made their plea in a video statement released Saturday, spoken in English with Arabic subtitles.
Their son, Peter Kassig, was captured a year ago in Syria. The 26-year-old Kassig is said to have converted to Islam while in captivity, changing his name to Abdul-Rahman.
His parents say he was taken hostage while working for the humanitarian organization he founded to help Syrian refugees. Since 2012, the group has worked to deliver food, clothing and medical supplies to Syrians displaced by their nation's civil war.
Kassig's founding of the group, Special Emergency Response and Assistance, or SERA, came after he spent three years in the U.S. Army.
He enlisted in 2004, became an Army Ranger and was deployed to Iraq in 2007, before being medically discharged later that year.
The Kassigs addressed their son directly in their video appeal, saying they are "very proud" of him and his work to bring humanitarian aid to the Syrian people.
"Most of all, know that we love you," said his mother. "And our hearts ache for you to be granted your freedom, so we can hug you again and then set you free to continue the life you have chosen, the life of service to those in greatest need."
Islamic State militants threatened Peter Kassig's life in a video released Friday showing the apparent beheading of British aid worker Alan Henning. Henning is the fourth Western captive the Islamic State has shown being beheaded in recent weeks.
UK Officials, Muslims Condemn Beheading
Muslim groups across Britain united on Saturday to join Prime Minister David Cameron in condemning the beheading of aid worker Alan Henning by Islamic State insurgents, with one leading cleric calling it a “despicable and offensive act.”
A handout image received from Britain's Foreign and Commonwealth Office on Sept.15, 2014 shows British aid worker Alan Henning holding a child in a refugee camp on the Turkish-Syrian border.
Prayers for the 47-year-old taxi driver from Salford in northern England were said in mosques throughout the country at the start of the Muslim Eid al-Adha festival.
Cameron called Henning a gentle, compassionate man who had simply tried to help others. Britain would do all it could to destroy his killers, he said.
Speaking after meeting the heads of Britain's armed forces and intelligence agencies, Cameron said in a broadcast message: “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.”
Henning had been held captive in Syria for nine months before a video was posted on YouTube on Friday showing him kneeling before a masked knifeman against a desert setting.
The masked man spoke briefly with the same southern British accent as that of the killer of previous hostages widely dubbed “Jihadi John.”
Islamic State insurgents posted the video late Friday showing the purported beheading. The video was released in the same manner as those depicting the beheadings of three other Western captives.
The footage ended with an Islamic State militant threatening another hostage the militant identified as American Peter Kassig. U.S. officials confirm that Kassig is being held by the terrorist group.
U.S. President Barack Obama strongly condemned what he called Henning's "brutal murder," and said the U.S. and its allies will continue to take action to degrade and ultimately destroy the Islamic State group.
He was the fourth hostage to have been beheaded by Islamic State (IS), which has faced air strikes by U.S., British, French and Arab fighter jets since seizing swaths of Iraq and Syria.
His case had prompted a wave of appeals for his release from British Muslim leaders and on Saturday morning several expressed their shock at the murder.
Shuja Shafi, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain, tweeted: “Saddened by reported murder of Alan Henning. A despicable and offensive act. He helped Muslims. My thoughts and prayers with his family.”
A group calling itself Muslims of the North of England called Henning a “national hero” while Mohammed Shafiq, chief executive of the Ramadhan Foundation that aims to help young Muslims, said: “This barbaric killing is an attack against all decent people around the world.”
Henning had been part of aid convoy taking medical supplies to a hospital in northwest Syria in December last year when it was stopped by gunmen and he was abducted.
Fears for his safety had grown since the British parliament voted last month to take part in air strikes against Islamic State in Iraq.
In the YouTube video he appears to read from a script before being killed. “Because of our parliament's decision to attack the Islamic State, I, as a member of the British public, will now pay the price for that decision,” he says.
Britain's Muslim leaders have in the past been criticized for what some critics have said is a lack of willingness publicly to confront what Cameron has called the “poisonous ideology” of Islamic extremists.
But the case of Henning, who had taken unpaid leave and left behind his wife and two teenage children to help Muslims deliver aid to children in Syria, had prompted a united response.
Last month, a letter signed by over 100 British Imams and Muslim leaders condemned Islamic State.
“The despicable threats to Mr. Henning at the hands of so-called 'Muslims' cannot be justified anywhere in the Quran and the Sunnah [Prophetic traditions],” it read.
“The un-Islamic fanatics are not acting as Muslims, but as the Prime Minister has said, they are acting as monsters,” it added. “They are perpetrating the worst crimes against humanity. This is not Jihad [Holy war] - it is a war against all humanity.”
Henning's wife Barbara had appealed for his release.
“Alan is a peaceful, selfless man,” she said. “When he was taken, he was driving an ambulance full of food and water to be handed out to anyone in need. His purpose for being there was no more and no less.”
On Friday Paul Cantlie the father of another Briton being held captive by Islamic State, journalist John Cantlie, issued his own appeal for his son's release.
Cameron said Islamic State had paid no heed to any appeals and paid tribute to Henning's desire to help others.
“He went with many Muslim friends out to do no more than simply help other people. His Muslim friends will be mourning him at this special time of Eid,” he said.
The militants say they are killing the men in retaliation for U.S.-led airstrikes on Islamic State positions. The U.S.-led coalition is trying to stop the militant group's campaign to create an Islamic state from parts of Iraq and Syria.
Some material for this report provided by Reuters, AP and AFP.