Parents of slain American aid worker to speak

Reuters News
Posted: Nov 17, 2014 1:26 PM

(Reuters) - The parents of an American aid worker beheaded by Islamic State militants after his abduction in Syria said they would make a brief public statement at their Indianapolis church on Monday.

Abdul-Rahman Kassig, whose name was Peter before his conversion to Islam, was the fifth European or American captive killed by the militants, and his severed head was seen in a video released on Sunday that showed the beheadings of at least 14 men.

In early October, Islamic State had threatened that Kassig, 26, a medic and former U.S. Army Ranger, would be the next American or European captive the group would behead after killing British aid worker Alan Henning.

Kassig's parents, Ed and Paula, were scheduled to make public comments at 3:30 p.m. EST (2030 GMT).

They repeatedly appealed to Islamic State to spare their son, who converted to Islam in captivity. They said his conversion was a sincere process that began months before he was captured in October 2013.

Kassig, who briefly served in Iraq in 2007 during a stint in the U.S. Army, returned to the Middle East in 2012 for a spring break trip while studying political science, his family said.

Moved by the suffering of Syrian refugees, Kassig went to Lebanon to volunteer as an emergency medical technician, then founded an aid organization to provide food and medical supplies to refugees and first aid training to civilians in Syria.

In an interview before his capture, Kassig spoke about his work in Lebanon, according to a clip his parents released on Sunday.

"I was able to share a little bit of hope and comfort with some people. They were able to teach me something about themselves that I wouldn't have known otherwise and we each were given an opportunity to look at the conflict in a different way," Kassig said in the audio clip.

Friends said Kassig was aware of the risks in war-torn Syria, where some 200,000 people have died and millions are displaced.

"There's very few individuals you meet that are so selfless and that truly want to help people and that put everyone else before them," former roommate Michael Downey told NBC.

Islamic State, an extremist group once linked to al Qaeda, has seized swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria and is now the target of U.S.-led air strikes.

(Writing by Fiona Ortiz in Chicago; Editing by Doina Chiacu in Washington)