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Threatened British hostage is cabbie who quit job to help refugees in Syrian civil war

By Oliver Wright and Tom Harper

The second British hostage whose life is threatened by Islamic militants is a volunteer aid worker with two children who left his job as a taxi driver to deliver supplies to Muslim refugees in the Syrian civil war.

Alan Henning (47) is being held by the same Islamic State (Isis) terrorists who murdered another British aid worker, David Haines.

He was captured in December as he worked on an aid convoy to the Turkish border with Syria.

Yesterday, Prime Minister David Cameron described Isis fighters as "monsters" not Muslims, as he pledged to "hunt down" those responsible for the horrific acts of brutality against British and American citizens over recent weeks.

Tributes to Mr Haines, whose death was shown at the end of a video posted on the internet on Saturday night, were led by his brother, Mike, who quoted the Koran as he warned the poisonous ideology fuelling Isis poses a threat "to the wholesale safety of every person in the world".

In a statement released by the Foreign Office, he said: "We agree with the Government in that Isis are extremely dangerous, and pose a threat to every nation, every religion, every politics and every person.

"Radicalisation remains the biggest threat to the wholesale safety of every person in the world. Increasingly we are seeing more and more radicalisation in every walk of life.

"It is not a race, religion or political issue, it is a human issue and it is in our everyday lives.

"I have become aware of a number of verses in the Koran that I feel are particularly apt at this time, if I may: 'The sense good and evil cannot be equal. Repel the evil with something that is better.'"

Fears were mounting last night for the safety of Mr Henning, who is believed to have been captured by a band of masked men after he ignored advice to enter the war-torn country to complete a charity aid project.

Known as 'Gadget' because of his love of technology, Mr Henning has helped on at least two convoys into Syria, where humanitarian volunteers drive supplies across the Turkish border into the war-torn country.

He helped load supplies into ambulances that were to be driven to Syria to help refugees.

His friend Mohamed Elhaddad, company director of the UK Arabic Society, spoke of Mr Henning's determination to help others.

Mr Elhaddad, British convoy leader, described the hostage as a passionate humanitarian volunteer, but said he insisted on going a long way into Syria to deliver aid.

Mr Elhaddad said: "I remember going on two convoys with him, at the end of 2012 and in May 2013, and he was always very positive and very interested in the work.

"I have met his family and his children. The first time we went together he was very excited and very emotional. He does a lot for others.

"He is good at DIY and he was a useful person to have on the trips.

"But Alan went too far into Syria. He took that extra risk, because he could have accomplished the drop-off at the border.

"I disagree completely with what is happening to him. Alan is my friend, this is extremely sad for him and his family. It is a very sad situation."

Catrin Nye, from the BBC Asian Network, said she met Mr Henning while he was packing aid convoys in Salford. She told BBC News: "He had travelled on a convoy, he had been into a refugee camp ... and it had been a life-changing experience.

"He had handed out the goods.

"He described holding the children ... and how that really affected him.

He told me he had to go back."

Yesterday, Mr Cameron said Mr Haines had been murdered in the "most callous and brutal way imaginable" by an organisation which was the "embodiment of evil".

He added the Government was ready to take "whatever steps are necessary" to "dismantle and destroy" Isis.

However, Downing Street played down calls for an immediate British military response or a recall of Parliament.

Mr Cameron is understood to be waiting until a meeting of the UN General Assembly next week before potentially asking MPs to authorise military action. "We need a well thought out, intelligent strategy which brings as many countries with us as possible," said one senior figure.

"The UN will be a significant staging post in that."

Mr Cameron revealed that the Government was aware Isis "have planned and continue to plan attacks" in Britain.

In what appeared to be a direct response to the British jihadist's claim in the video that Mr Haines's death was a result of Mr Cameron's decision to arm the Kurdish Peshmerga, he said Britain "cannot just walk on by".

"There is no option of keeping our heads down that would make us safe," he said.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph