Parents of American Peter Kassig, held by Islamic State, release statement and ask for prayers for their son and all hostages

Peter Kassig
Peter Kassig delivering aid in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley. May 2013. (Kassig family photo)

The parents of an American Iraq war veteran being held captive by Islamic State militants offered condolences to the family of slain aid worker Alan Henning and asked for prayers for thier son Friday.

The violent extremist group, also called IS and ISIL, released a video Friday that claims to show the beheading of British national Henning, 47, an aid worker who had traveled to Syria in December 2013 and was abducted. At the end of the video, a member of the radical group threatens the life of American captive Peter Kassig.

Kassig, 26, is shown in an orange jumpsuit held by a masked man who says, “Obama, you have started your aeriall bombardment in Sham [Syria] which keeps on striking our people, so it is only right that we continue to strike the necks of your people."

Parents Ed and Paula Kassig, who live in Indianapolis, released the following statement Friday:

"The Kassig family extends our concern for the family of Alan Henning. We have read about his work and his generous character with great respect and admiration. We ask everyone around the world to pray for the Henning family, for our son, and for the release of all innocent people being held hostage in the Middle East and around the globe."

U.S. officials confirmed to the Associated Press that Kassig was being held by the Islamic State.

A representative of the Kassig family who shared details about Peter Kassig reported he has converted to Islam while in captivity and now goes by the name Abdul-Rahman.

Peter Kassig joined the Army in 2006 and was briefly deployed to Iraq with the U.S. Rangers in 2007, according to a 2012 interview with CNN. He was later honorably discharged due to a medical condition. Kassig then studied to become an emergency medical technician and in 2012 founded a humanitarian aid group called SERA (Special Emergency Response and Assistance).

The non-governmental organization, based in Gaziantep, Turkey, but not currently functional, provided food and medical supplies for refugees fleeing Syria’s civil war. A message posted on its website now says, "Due to the present security situation in Syria, SERA has temporarily ceased its operations.” It was not clear when the message was posted.

Kassig said he felt that aid work was his calling.

“We each get one life and that’s it,” he told CNN in 2012 while doing volunteer work in Lebanon. "The way I saw it I didn’t have a choice. This is what I was put here to do. I guess I’m just a hopeless romantic and an idealist and I believe in hopeless causes."

He wrote passionately about his work to help Syrian refugees on a fundraising page he started for his group SERA.

"We may not have much but I have always felt that the reasons why you do something are as important as what you do," Kassig wrote, "This is about making a difference not just through material goods, but also the exchange of ideas and experiences that the interanational [sic] community benefits from through this type of iniative [sic]".

In his work in Lebanon, Turkey and Syria, Kassig worked closely with and befriended Syrian medical and humanitarian workers who were trying to save lives and restore hope. He converted to Islam while being held by the Islamic State, and the family representative said former hostages have told Kassig's parents that Peter's adopted faith helped him cope with his long imprisonment.

The Kassig family representative said Peter was working on a project for SERA when he was detained while traveling to eastern Syria on Oct. 1, 2013.

Henning is the fourth captive to be executed by the Islamic State. The group also killed American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, and British aid worker David Haines.

The White House released a statement Friday condemning Henning’s murder:

“The United States strongly condemns the brutal murder of United Kingdom citizen Alan Henning by the terrorist group ISIL. Mr. Henning worked to help improve the lives of the Syrian people and his death is a great loss for them, for his family and the people of the United Kingdom.  Standing together with our UK friends and allies, we will work to bring the perpetrators of Alan’s murder – as well as the murders of Jim Foley, Steven Sotloff and David Haines – to justice. Standing together with a broad coalition of allies and partners, we will continue taking decisive action to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL.”

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