US aid worker threatened in Syria is Army vet


By Jeni O’Malley , AP

INDIANAPOLIS–Peter Kassig first visited Beirut on a college spring break trip. What the former Army Ranger saw there prompted him to return, the next time as a medical assistant and humanitarian worker hoping to offer blankets, food and medical care to victims of the region’s conflicts.

Kassig founded a nongovernmental organization that provided aid for refugees fleeing the civil war in neighboring Syria. But his work in Lebanon led to his capture by militants on Oct. 1, 2013, while en route to eastern Syria.

On Friday, Kassig, 26, appeared in an online video that purported to show a masked militant who threatened to behead the Army veteran next, after the apparent beheading of British hostage Alan Henning.

The Associated Press could not immediately verify the video’s authenticity, though it was released in the same manner as other Islamic State group videos and the masked militant sounded similar to the one who carried out other slayings.

In a statement issued Friday evening, National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden confirmed that Kassig was being held by Islamic State militants.

“At this point we have no reason to doubt the authenticity of the video released earlier today. We will continue to use every tool at our disposal — military, diplomatic, law enforcement and intelligence — to try to bring Peter home to his family,” Hayden said.

The video and threat were a heartbreaking development for Kassig’s family and friends, who have stayed silent since his capture while working to secure his release.