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'If Abdul-Rahman Kassig Were Free, He'd Be Helping Syrians'


Abdul-Rahman (Peter) Kassig's family released this photo on October 4 showing him somewhere along the Syrian border between late 2012 and fall 2013 delivering supplies to refugees.

Abdul-Rahman (Peter) Kassig's family released this photo on October 4 showing him somewhere along the Syrian border between late 2012 and fall 2013 delivering supplies to refugees.

The family of Abdul-Rahman (formerly Peter) Kassig, the American aid worker and former soldier held hostage by Islamic State (IS) militants in Syria, has released a new message to his captors, asking them to release him.

Kassig was abducted by IS militants last year, while delivering aid to displaced Syrian families. A trained emergency medical technician, Kassig worked as a medic in Syria's Deir Ezzor Province, through an organization he founded, Special Emergency Response and Assistance. While in Syria, he converted to Islam and changed his name from Peter to Abdul-Rahman.

His parents, Ed and Paula Kassig, initially requested a media blackout about their son's kidnapping. However, after the 26-year-old aid worker appeared in an October 3 video showing an IS militant beheading a British hostage, Alan Henning, they have made a number of public statements calling for Kassig's release.

In addition to Henning, IS militants have beheaded two other hostages: American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff.

In an attempt to reach out to IS and ask for Kassig to be freed, the Kassig family are running a social-media campaign via Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

In their October 30 statement, Kassig's parents said that their son's conversion to Sunni Islam was "sincere" and "began many months before his imprisonment."

The statement also emphasizes Kassig's aid work in Syria.

A recent memoir of Kassig, written by colleague Alison Meuse, also described his humanitarian work in Syria and his "humility and respect for Arab culture," referring to a video message by an Arab colleague who said the young man had fasted with Muslim workers during the holy month of Ramadan.

Days before the Kassig family released their latest appeal to IS, reports emerged that the militant group subjected Kassig's fellow hostages to torture. The prisoners were "routinely beaten and subjected to waterboarding" and were also threatened with execution, "The New York Times" reported.

Kassig's parents are not the only people calling on IS to release the American hostage. The Kassig family have emphasized support from Muslims for their son's release:

Abu Omar Aqidi, a senior commander in Jabhat al-Nusra, Al-Qaeda's Syrian offshoot, has also praised Kassig, recalling that the American aid worker removed shrapnel from the head of a Jabhat al-Nusra militant. "Naturally, I assumed he was a Muslim doctor who had come to Syria," Aqidi tweeted in Arabic.

-- Joanna Paraszczuk

About This Blog

"Under The Black Flag" provides news, opinion, and analysis about the impact of the Islamic State (IS) extremist group in Syria, Iraq, and beyond. It focuses not only on the fight against terrorist groups in the Middle East, but also on the implications for the region and the world. The blog's primary author, James Miller, closely covered the first three years of the Arab Spring, with a focus on Syria, and is now the managing editor of The Interpreter, where he covers Russia's foreign and domestic policy and the Kremlin's wars in Syria and Ukraine. Follow him on Twitter: @Millermena

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