Abdul-Rahman Kassig: Parents of US hostage beg Isis leader to free their son

Mr Kassig appeared in the online video released by the militants, which showed the beheading of British humanitarian worker Alan Henning

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The Independent Online

The mother of the American hostage Abdul-Rahman Kassig issued a direct plea to the leader of Isis for information about her son’s fate after he was threatened with murder by the militant group.

Paula Kassig tweeted a message meant for the group’s elusive figurehead, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, saying: “I am an old woman, and Abdul-Rahman is my only child. My husband and I are on our own, with no help from the government. We would like to talk to you. How can we reach you?”

Ms Kassig tagged other known Isis figures in the tweet, in the hope that it would reach Baghdadi, whom she referred to as caliph, the term for the head of an Islamic state. Her son, previously known as Peter, took the name Abdul-Rahman, or “servant of the merciful”, when he converted to Islam while in captivity.


Mr Kassig, 26, was kidnapped in 2013 while doing aid work in eastern Syria. Last week, he appeared in a video released online by Isis, which showed the beheading of the British humanitarian worker Alan Henning. Mr Henning was the fourth hostage to be killed in the same manner, after the US journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, and the British aid worker David Haines. The video ended with a threat to murder Mr Kassig. Isis claims the killings are in response to the US-led airstrikes on its forces.

Mr Kassig’s parents – Paula and Ed, a schoolteacher – then released their own YouTube video, pleading with his captors, “to show mercy and use their power to let out son go”. On Wednesday, the couple attended a vigil for Abdul-Rahman at his alma mater, Butler University in Indianapolis. Almost 300 people said prayers for Mr Kassig at the event, which was sponsored by the university’s Muslim Student Association.

Ed and Paula Kassig attending a vigil for their son at Butler University this week (Getty Images)

In 2007, Mr Kassig spent three months stationed in Iraq as a US Army Ranger, but reportedly felt compelled to return to the region after leaving the armed forces. A trained emergency medical technician, he founded a small aid organisation in 2012 to provide medical and other supplies to refugees in Lebanon and Syria.

In June, he wrote to his parents from captivity, expressing sadness at the situation. “I am obviously pretty scared to die but the hardest part is not knowing,” he wrote. “I am very sad that all this has happened and for what all of you back home are going through.”

Following Wednesday’s vigil, Mr Kassig’s parents issued a statement urging other Americans to honour their son by supporting humanitarian causes in Syria. They called for today to become a “day of action” in which people should learn about the crisis facing Syrian refugees in Turkey.

“The humanitarian crisis is staggering and is the reason why Abdul-Rahman was drawn to the region,” they declared.