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Obama: Kassig killing 'act of evil'

US president Barack Obama has said the beheading of Peter Kassig by the Islamic State group in Syria is "an act of pure evil".

A video was released yesterday showing a masked militant standing over the severed head of a man it said was the former US Army Ranger-turned-aid worker, who was seized while delivering relief supplies in Syria last year.

Mr Obama confirmed Mr Kassig's death after a US review of the video, which also showed the mass beheadings of a dozen Syrian soldiers.

The 26-year-old, who founded an aid group to help Syrians caught in their country's brutal civil war, "was taken from us in an act of pure evil by a terrorist group that the world rightly associates with inhumanity", Mr Obama said.

He denounced the extremist group, which he said "revels in the slaughter of innocents, including Muslims, and is bent only on sowing death and destruction".

Secretary of State John Kerry warned IS militants that the US will not be "intimidated".

Mr Kerry said the brutality of IS and its potential spread worldwide was a key reason, among many, that the United States must remain deeply engaged in the Mideast.

He added: "The United States does not go in search of enemies in the Middle East. There are times, however, and this is one, when enemies come in search of us."

Left unchecked, Mr Kerry said that IS could grow worldwide. Already, he said, IS has seized more land and resources "than al Qaida ever had on its best day of its existence".

IS "leaders assume that the world will be too intimidated to oppose them," Mr Kerry said. "But let us be clear: We are not intimidated."

The slain hostage's parents, Ed and Paula Kassig, said they were "heartbroken" by their son's killing but "incredibly proud" of his humanitarian work.

They said their son "lost his life as a result of his love for the Syrian people and his desire to ease their suffering". A vigil was held in Indianapolis yesterday for Mr Kassig, which his parents attended.

IS has now killed five Westerners it was holding. American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff were beheaded, as were British aid workers David Haines and Alan Henning.

Unlike previous videos of slain Western hostages, the footage released did not show the decapitation of Mr Kassig or the moments leading up to his death.

"This is Peter Edward Kassig, a US citizen ... who fought against the Muslims in Iraq," said the black-clad militant, who spoke with a British accent that was distorted in the video, apparently to disguise his identity.

Previous videos also featured a militant with a British accent that the FBI says it has identified, though it has not named him publicly.

The footage identifies the militants' location as Dabiq, a town in northern Syria that Islamic State uses as the title of its English-language propaganda magazine and where they believe an apocalyptic battle between Muslims and their enemies will occur.

The high-definition video also showed the beheadings of about a dozen men identified as Syrian military officers and pilots, all dressed in blue jumpsuits. The black-clad militant warns that US soldiers will meet a similar fate.

"We say to you, Obama: You claim to have withdrawn from Iraq four years ago," the militant said. "Here you are: You have not withdrawn. Rather, you hid some of your forces behind your proxies."

A US-led coalition is targeting IS in airstrikes, supporting Western-backed Syrian rebels, Kurdish fighters and the Iraqi military.

Mr Kassig, who served in the US Army's 75th Ranger Regiment, a special operations unit, deployed to Iraq in 2007. After being medically discharged, he returned to the Middle East in 2012 and formed a relief group, Special Emergency Response and Assistance, to aid Syrian refugees.

A certified emergency medic, Mr Kassig delivered food and medical supplies, and provided trauma care to wounded Syrians before being captured in eastern Syria on October 1 2013. Friends say he converted to Islam in captivity and took the first name Abdul-Rahman.

Mr Obama said he "was a humanitarian who worked to save the lives of Syrians injured and dispossessed" by war. The president offered prayers and condolences to the Kassig family.

"We cannot begin to imagine their anguish at this painful time," he said.

Also unlike previous videos, the new footage did not show other Western captives or directly threaten to behead anyone else. It also had lingering close-ups on some militants' exposed faces, a few of whom appeared to be foreigners.

The video appeared on websites used in the past by IS, which now controls a third of Syria and Iraq.

France's top security official has said a Frenchman suspected of joining Islamic State fighters was among the killers in the video.

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuveamed one of the men as Maxime Hauchard, who is about 22 years old and from west of Paris.

He said Hauchard has been on the radar of French authorities since he left for Syria in 2013 under cover of humanitarian action.


From Belfast Telegraph