The parents of an American hostage being held by Islamic State militants Saturday pleaded for their son’s life, saying he had voluntarily embraced Islam and was dedicated to alleviating the suffering of the Syrian people.
"We implore his captors to show mercy and use their power to let our son go," Ed Kassig, the father of 26-year-old Peter Kassig, said in a video statement released by the family.
Peter Edward Kassig, an Iraq war veteran, was abducted on Oct. 1, 2013 while in Syria delivering food and medical supplies to refugees with a humanitarian organization he founded called Special
Emergency Response and Assistance (SERA).
Kassig converted to Islam while in captivity, the family said through a spokesperson Friday, and now goes by the first name Abdul-Rahman.
Ed and Paula Kassig appear together in the video, seated on a couch, and she holds what appears to be a school photo of their son.
The Kassig family’s video comes one day after the Islamic State released its own video depicting the beheading of British aid worker Alan Henning. The video shows Kassig in an orange jumpsuit while a masked IS militant appears to threaten his life. “Obama, you have started your aerial bombardment in Sham [a reference to Syria] which keeps on striking on our people,” the masked man says. “So it's only right we continue to strike the necks of your people.”
Kassig is a former Army Ranger who served in Iraq in 2007. He was later honorably discharged for a medical condition. In the video released Saturday, the parents of Kassig emphasize his humanitarian work and dedication to helping those afflicted by Syria’s long civil war.
“Know that we love you, and our hearts ache for you to be granted your freedom so we can hug you again and then set you free to continue the life you have chosen, the life of service to those in greatest need,” his mother, Paula, said in the video.
Ed Kassig also suggested that the family was opposed to U.S. policy in Syria.
"There is so much that is beyond our control,” he said. "We asked our government to change its actions, but like our son, we have no more control over the U.S. government than you have over the break of dawn."