Sunday, November 16, 2014

New ISIS video claims beheading of American hostage Peter Kassig

(Fox News) The Islamic State terror group has claimed to have beheaded American hostage Peter Kassig, an aid worker and former Army Ranger, in a graphic new video.

In the nearly 16-minute video uploaded to social networks on Sunday, a black-clad militant with his face concealed stands before a severed head that he claims is that of the U.S. aid worker.

The authenticity of the footage has not been verified. National Security Council spokesperson Bernadette Meehan said in a statement that intelligence officials were "working as quickly as possible to determine its authenticity.

"If confirmed, we are appalled by the brutal murder of an innocent American aid worker and we express our deepest condolences to his family and friends," Meehan said. The video was posted shortly after President Obama departed for Washington from the G-20 summit in Australia. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Obama was briefed by National Security Adviser Susan Rice while in flight.

A government official confirmed to Fox News that the National Counterterrorism Center is aware of the video and is reviewing the tape.

Ed and Paula Kassig, Peter's parents, released a statement early Sunday saying they were aware of the reports of their son's death and were awaiting confirmation of their authenticity. They also asked that media outlets not post any images or video distributed by Islamic State, better known as ISIS.

"We prefer our son is written about and remembered for his important work and the love he shared with friends and family," the statement read, "not in the manner the hostage takers would use to manipulate Americans and further their cause."

The video also showed what appeared to be the mass beheading of more than a dozen captured Syrian soldiers, but did not show the beheading of the person identified as Kassig, 26. Showing the execution of the soldiers is a departure from previous videos, which did not depict the act of beheading. The soldiers' executioners are not wearing masks in the video and warn they will carry out similar actions outside the region.

"This is Peter Edward Kassig, a U.S. citizen, of your country; Peter who fought against the Muslims in Iraq, while serving as a soldier," the militant says near the end of the video. He speaks in an audible British accent despite his voice being distorted to make it more difficult to identify him.

"We say to you, Obama claim to have withdrawn from Iraq four years ago," the militant said. "Here you are: you have not withdrawn. Rather, you hid some of your forces behind your proxies," he said, apparently referring to Western-backed Syrian rebels, Kurdish fighters and the Iraqi military.

"Here we are, burying the first American crusader in Dabiq, eagerly waiting for the remainder of your armies to arrive."

The new video is longer than its predecessors and shows multiple hostages being executed, as opposed to concentrating on a single hostage's death. It also attempts to tie ISIS leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, to Usama bin Laden and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the founder of Al Qaeda in Iraq, from which Islamic State claims descent.

Sky News reported that the man featured in the video spoke in English with a British accent. The Associated Press reported that his voice had been distorted to make him harder to identify. It was not immediately clear whether he was the same militant who has appeared in other beheading videos and has been referred to as "Jihadi John" in accounts given by former hostages of their captivity.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said he was "horrified by the cold-blooded murder," saying that the Islamic State group has "again shown their depravity."

The video identifies the militant's location as Dabiq, a small town in the northern Syrian province of Aleppo, near the Turkish border. The urban setting is another departure from previous beheading videos, which were filmed in the remote desert of northeastern Syria.

Kassig would be the fifth Western hostage killed by ISIS in less than three months, and the third American. Previous Western beheading victims were American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, as well as Britons David Haines, a former Royal Air Force engineer, and Alan Henning, a taxi driver from northwest England. The group is also holding British photojournalist John Cantlie, who has appeared in several other videos released by the group functioning as a de facto spokesman.