INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Nov. 16, 2014) -- The Islamic State terror group released a video claiming to have beheaded Indianapolis native Abdul-Rahman Kassig, formally known as Peter.
The nearly 16-minute long video was uploaded on social networks overnight. It shows what appears to be a mass beheading of more than a dozen captured Syrian soldiers and claims Kassig was one of the people beheaded.
His parents, Ed and Paula, issued a statement early Sunday morning:
“We are aware of the news reports being circulated about our treasured son and are waiting for confirmation from the government as to the authenticity of these reports. We will have no other statement at this time and ask that you please respect our privacy.
“The family respectfully asks that the news media avoid playing into the hostage takers’ hands and refrain from publishing or broadcasting photographs or video distributed by the hostage takers. We prefer our son is written about and remembered for his important work and the love he shared with friends and family, not in the manner the hostage takers would use to manipulate Americans and further their cause.”
"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," National Security Council spokesperson Bernadette Meehan said.
The video was later determined to be authentic, making Kassig the fifth Western hostage killed by ISIS in the last three months.
The 26-year-old aid worker changed his name from Peter to Abdul-Rahman after converting to Islam. He was in Syria helping victims of the civil war there and created a non-profit group to help Syrian refugees.
Kassig was first captured by the terrorist group in October 2013 and his life was threatened in a video that was released last month. Friends and family made pleas and his parents released this video in response.
“We implore those who are holding you to show mercy and use their power to let you go,” said his mother Paula Kassig.
Vigils have been held for the Indiana native, including a vigil at the Islamic Society of North America, which is based in central Indiana. The national Muslim group expressed outrage when Kassig was threatened.
“We do not force people to become Muslim. We do not threaten people to become Muslim and we do not threaten or kill people that are different from us," ISNA Spokesperson Edgar Hopida said.
"We joined 120 Muslim scholars from around the world in a point by point refutation of Baghdadi and his group saying that there is no religious justification to the actions that they are committing," Hopida said.
Kassig's Syrian friends recently called for his release, also saying that he had converted to Islam and was trying to help those afflicted by the country's three-year civil war.
After hearing confirmation of their son's death, his parents released a longer statement:
“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. Our heart also goes out to the families of the Syrians who lost their lives, along with our son.
“Fed by a strong desire to use his life to save the lives of others, Abdul-Rahman was drawn to the camps that are filled with displaced families and to understaffed hospitals inside Syria. We know he found his home amongst the Syrian people, and he hurt when they were hurting.
“As he wrote in March 2012, in a letter announcing he was taking a leave of absence from Butler University to serve the Syrian people:
‘Here, in this land, I have found my calling. … I do not know much. Every day that I am here I have more questions and less answers, but what I do know is that I have a chance to do something here, to take a stand. To make a difference.’
“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.
“We remain heartbroken, also, for the families of the other captives who did not make it home safely. The families of James Foley, Steven Sotloff, David Haines, and Alan Henning remain in our daily thoughts and prayers, and we pray for the safe return of all remaining captives held by all sides of the Syrian civil war.
“We remain eternally grateful for the many, many words of support and prayers from all over the world on our son’s behalf. We ask people to continue to pray for the safe return of all captives being held unjustly and all people being oppressed around the world, and especially for the people of Syria, a land our son loved.”
ISIS declared an Islamic caliphate in the areas under its control in Syria and Iraq.
The U.S. began launching airstrikes in Iraq and Syria earlier this year in an effort to stop the group's advance.