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Peter Kassig beheading: US aid worker vowed to help Syrians

The Islamic State jihadist group on Sunday claimed to have executed Peter Kassig, a US aid worker kidnapped in Syria, as a warning to the United States.

world Updated: Nov 16, 2014 18:24 IST
This-handout-photo-released-by-the-Kassig-family-shows-Peter-Kassig-in-front-of-a-truck-somewhere-along-the-Syrian-border-between-late-2012-and-autumn-2013-AFP-Photo
This-handout-photo-released-by-the-Kassig-family-shows-Peter-Kassig-in-front-of-a-truck-somewhere-along-the-Syrian-border-between-late-2012-and-autumn-2013-AFP-Photo

Peter Kassig, an American aid worker jihadists claim to have killed, had a "calling" to help Syrians suffering due to the devastating civil war in their country.

The 26-year-old former soldier disappeared on October 1, 2013 and was being held by the Islamic State group, which released a video Sunday claiming Kassig's execution and showing a masked militant standing over a severed head.

Kassig had been in the region since March 2012, when he traveled to Lebanon on a break from university, his family wrote on a Facebook page dedicated to raising awareness about his plight.

After witnessing the plight of those displaced by the war in neighboring Syria, he emailed a letter to family and friends telling them he was not coming home yet.

"I have tried to live my life in a way that displays what it is that I believe, but the truth is, much of my life I have only been searching for my calling, I had not yet found it," he wrote.

"Here, in this land, I have found my calling."

The young American, who was also trained as an emergency medical technician, went to Turkey and founded an aid group, his father, Ed Kassig, said in a video last month.

"He helped train 150 civilians in skills needed to provide medical aid to the people of Syria. His organization gave food, cooking supplies, clothing and medicine to those in need," Ed Kassig said as he pleaded for his son's release.


Desolation and hope

In an email to a friend in 2012, also posted on the Facebook page, Kassig wrote about the desolation of war and his hope for the future.

"How will I tell you of the walls riddled with bullets and the flowers that grow over them?" he wrote.

"War never ends, it just moves around... Loss and destruction in this land brings about only survival; the determination to press on and rebuild," he added.

"I can't be sure but I think I'm starting believe that as beautiful as it is to finish building a house, its a better feeling laying the first brick again after its been torn down..."

In a quotation on the Facebook page, he admits he at times wished for something different. The quote is attached as a caption to a photo showing Kassig brandishing a blood-clotting agent he obtained to help treat wounded in Syria.

"The truth is sometimes I really think I would like to do something else, but at the end of the day, this work is really the only thing that I have found that gives my life both meaning and direction."

Kassig, who converted to Islam during his captivity and took the Muslim name Abdel Rahman, said in a letter smuggled to his family his faith was intact.

"In terms of my faith, I pray every day, and I am not angry about my situation in that sense. I am in a dogmatically complicated situation here, but I am at peace with my belief."


'Scared to die'

In an October 3 video showing British aid worker Alan Henning's beheading, the threat was made that Kassig would be next.

IS has justified killing Western hostages as retaliation for US-led air strikes on the group over swathes of territory it has seized in Iraq and Syria.

In the letter received by his family in June, Kassig wrote that he was "scared to die".

"But the hardest part is not knowing, wondering, hoping and wondering if I should even hope at all. I am very sad all this has happened and for what all of you back home are going through.

"If I do die, I figure that at least you and I can seek refuge and comfort in knowing that I went out as a result of trying to alleviate suffering and helping those in need."