Kassig making a food delivery to refugees in Lebanonâs Bekaa Valley, May 2013. (Kassig Family)
A former roommate of Peter Kassig, the former U.S. Army Ranger and American aid worker who was beheaded by Islamic State militants, says the unusual nature of the video released by the group announcing his killing Sunday suggests the 26-year-old fought his execution.
Previous videos released by the Islamic State follow a grisly formula, with masked militants carrying out public beheadings of hostages, including American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff and British aid workers David Haines and Alan Henning.
In the video released Sunday, a severed head believed to be Kassig’s is shown near the end of a 15-minute montage boasting of the group's killings of Syrian soldiers. But Kassig's body and videotaped killing are not. Also not shown are images of other hostages that the group typically sets up as its next victims.
“Peter, who fought against the Muslims in Iraq while serving as a soldier under the American army, doesn’t have much to say," the masked militant says in the video.
"Clearly something went wrong,” Mitchell Prothero, Iraq correspondent for McClatchy, who shared an apartment with Kassig in Beirut, told the news service. “My belief is that he knew it was up and did something to screw up their video.”
Kassig, an Indianapolis native, was kidnapped while delivering relief supplies to refugees in Syria in 2013.
Prothero believes the hostage training that Kassig would have received when he was deployed in Iraq helped him resist starring in the terror group's latest production.
“There’s no way they planned for 14 minutes of them killing Syrian guys and then 30 seconds at the end of them killing Pete,” Prothero said.
Kassig converted to Islam during his captivity, changing his name to Abdul-Rahman, his parents said.
"We are heartbroken to learn that our son, Abdul-Rahman Peter Kassig, has lost his life as a result of his love for the Syrian people and his desire to ease their suffering," Ed and Paula Kassig said in a statement Sunday. "Our heart also goes out to the families of the Syrians who lost their lives, along with our son. We are incredibly proud of our son for living his life according to his humanitarian calling. We will work every day to keep his legacy alive as best we can."
On Sunday, President Barack Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry and others condemned Kassig's killing.
"Abdul-Rahman was taken from us in an act of pure evil by a terrorist group that the world rightly associates with inhumanity," Obama said in a statement. "While [the Islamic State] revels in the slaughter of innocents, including Muslims, and is bent only on sowing death and destruction, Abdul-Rahman was a humanitarian who worked to save the lives of Syrians injured and dispossessed by the Syrian conflict."
“This was a young man who traveled to one of the world's most dangerous places to care for the innocent victims of a bloody conflict, and fearlessly dedicated himself to helping those in need,” Kerry said. “There can be no greater contrast than that between Abdul-Rahman’s generosity of spirit and the pernicious evil of [the Islamic State]."
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence ordered flags lowered at state buildings across Indiana on Monday.
"We want to mourn him for a while while celebrating his life," Siobhan McEvoy-Levy, Kassig's former professor at Butler University in Indianapolis, told WRTV. "He had a lot of empathy. So much empathy. He wanted to try to heal the brokenness of the world."