ISIS Claims Beheading Of American Aid Worker The so-called Islamic State has released a video claiming the beheading of another American hostage. Correspondent Dina Temple-Raston talks with NPR's Rachel Martin about ISIS's strategy.

ISIS Claims Beheading Of American Aid Worker

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin. And we begin this morning with another disturbing video from the so-called Islamic State. Overnight, ISIS posted the apparent killing of another American hostage. A masked man all dressed in black claims to have been headed U.S. aid worker Peter Kassig. He had been captured in Syria last year. Kassig was 26 years old.

U.S. officials say they're still trying to determine the video's authenticity. NPR's counterterrorism correspondent Dina Temple-Raston joins us now for more on this. Dina, what can you tell us about Peter Kassig?

DINA TEMPLE-RASTON, BYLINE: Well, Kassig was a former U.S. Army ranger who served in Iraq. And he founded an aid organization called Special Emergency Response and Assistance, or SERA. It was providing aid and assistance to Syrian refugees in Turkey, initially. He began delivering food and medical supplies to medical camps on both sides of border about two years ago.

He was a trained medical assistant so he was also providing trauma care to wounded Syrians. And he was helping train others there to provide medical attention. He was captured in Eastern Syria in October of last year; 2013. He was from Indiana. And he was a little bit different from the other hostages this held group held because he openly converted to Islam during his captivity. So he also went by the name Abdullah - sorry, Abdul-Rahman Kassig.

MARTIN: And if his death is confirmed by U.S. officials, he would be the fifth Westerner killed by ISIS, right?

TEMPLE-RASTON: That's right. There were two journalists, James Foley and Steven Sotloff, and then two British aid workers, Alan Henning and David Haines. And it appears that Kassig's conversion to Islam and the fact that he was helping refugees was not enough to save his life. The National Security Council put out a statement this morning that said, quote, "if confirmed, we're appalled by the brutal murder of an innocent. American aid worker. And we express our deepest condolences to his family and friends," un-quote.

His parents put out a statement too. They said they were waiting for confirmation. But clearly they're devastated by what appears to have happened.

MARTIN: Dina, do we know how many other hostages ISIS is holding?

TEMPLE-RASTON: Well, you know, that's a number people are keeping very close to the vest because, frankly, there are westerners who are missing in Syria, but it's unclear if they're being held by ISIS or some other group. So for their safety and security, no one is talking about numbers.

MARTIN: This particular video is 16 minutes long. What clues, if any, can U.S. intelligence officials glean from it?

TEMPLE-RASTON: Well, the man who appears in the video as the ISIS killer appears to be the British terrorist who killed the other hostages. He's known publicly as Jihadi John. He speaks English in the video. And both U.S. and British intelligence services say they know who he really is. They just haven't released his name.

This English-speaking ISIS fighter spoke to the camera on the video. And he introduced Peter Kassig. He said he's a U.S. citizen of your country. Peter, who fought against the Muslims in Iraq while serving as a soldier in the American Army, doesn't have much to say. His previous cellmates have already spoken on his behalf. And then he addressed President Obama and said that the U.S. hadn't withdrawn from Iraq as it said it had. And he said that ISIS would burry American soldiers under Syrian soil.

MARTIN: We will have to leave it there. NPR's counterterrorism correspondent, Dina Temple-Raston. Thanks so much, Dina.

TEMPLE-RASTON: You're welcome.

Copyright © 2014 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.