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Middle East

David Haines: British hostage captured by Isis is experienced aid worker 'who helped Muslim communities in the Balkans'

Briton has been held captive in Syria for 17 months

The British hostage threatened with death by Islamic State (Isis) militants was an experienced aid worker who spent years “trying so hard” to help communities ravaged by war in the Balkans.

David Haines, who was identified in a video showing the beheading of a second American journalist, Steven Sotloff, has been held captive for the last 17 months. He was taken near the Atmeh refugee camp close to the Syrian border with Turkey in March 2013.

The militant threatening his life appears to be the same man who killed James Foley and Mr Sotloff, who speaks with a distinctive London or south-east accent and has been dubbed 'Jihadi John'.

The fighter paraded the British hostage in front of cameras, warning he was next if the US and Western government did not "back off" from fighting Isis.

Initially, the British media did not name Mr Haines following a request from the family, via the Foreign Office.

However, yesterday that changed as his identity was increasingly revealed by overseas publishers.

The 44-year-old father-of-two was reportedly born in Yorkshire but grew up in Scotland. He has been described as a “fantastic man and father” by his family.

He married his wife in Croatia in 2010, who recently posted a picture on Facebook with Mr Haines and their four-year-old daughter and a caption that said: “This is my world”.

His 17-year-old daughter also described her dad as a “hero” online, the Daily Mail reports, writing: ‘It’s been a really tough year without my dad. I think heroes exist, but they don’t all show off in a stupid cape. I think my dad’s a hero.”

A friend of the family told The Telegraph Mr Haines' wife received a video last year, possibly as proof he was still alive, while another hostage who contacted the family two months ago and said he was being treated “humanely” by his captors.

The Foreign Secretary said on Tuesday the UK will examine 'every possible option' to protect the Briton and confirmed there had already been an unsuccessful US-led attempt at rescuing him.

It is believed that he has been moved more than ten times across various locations in Syria.

A former colleague said Mr Haines worked for an aid organisation helping rebuild communities in Croatia between 1999 and 2004. He and his wife later settled near Zagreb, Croatia.

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“I was helping him rebuild the community. We were rebuilding houses, restarting schools that had been destroyed in the fighting,” he said.

“He used to help everyone — the Serbs, the Croats and the ethnic Muslims. He was completely fair to everyone and wanted to improve their lives. That’s why I was surprised that he had been kidnapped by Muslims, because he tried so hard to help them.

“He was someone who didn’t believe in bureaucracy. Even though he was in charge, he never talked down to anyone.

“When there were tensions in the community, he would bring people together to resolve them. He is tough but completely open-minded. I truly believe that will help him escape this situation.”