Investigators seek identity of jihadists at beheading

WESTERN intelligence officials are trying to identify Islamic State (IS) militants seen in a video that shows the beheading of US aid worker Abdul-Rahman Kassig and 18 Syrian prisoners.

A member of the jihadist group, believed to be Frenchman Maxime Hauchard. Picture: AFP
A member of the jihadist group, believed to be Frenchman Maxime Hauchard. Picture: AFP

Mr Kassig, 26, is the fifth western hostage to be killed by IS.

One of the militants is thought to be a Frenchman named Maxime Hauchard, 22, France’s interior minister said yesterday.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Another was reported to be a Briton, but the father of Nasser Muthana, 20, from Cardiff, later denied it was his son.

Earlier reports said Ahmed Muthana had said: “It looks like my son”, but Mr Muthana later said he did not think he was among the 16 jihadists in the video.

Mr Kassig was captured by IS fighters – also known as Isil – in Syria in October last year while providing medical training and humanitarian aid to victims of the country’s conflict.

Footage of his death, broadcast temporarily on YouTube at the weekend, featured an IS fighter speaking with a London accent. He is thought to be Jihadi John, the man apparently responsible for previous hostage killings.

Prime Minister David Cameron condemned IS as a “depraved organisation”, while US president Barack Obama said the killing of Mr Kassig was “an act of pure evil”.

Mr Kassig’s parents said their son died “as a result of his love for the Syrian people”.

The American aid worker was born Peter but changed his name to Abdul-Rahman following his conversion to Islam while in captivity.

Mr Cameron said: “These beheadings show once again what a depraved organisation this is.

CONNECT WITH THE SCOTSMAN

Subscribe to our daily newsletter (requires registration) and get the latest news, sport and business headlines delivered to your inbox every morning

• You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Google +

“Like others who have been murdered in cold blood by Isil, Abdul-Rahman Kassig was a selfless humanitarian worker who had gone to the region to help care for those fleeing the Syrian conflict.”

Mr Obama praised Mr Kassig as a “humanitarian” who “cared deeply about the plight of the Syrian people”.

The president said: “Abdul-Rahman was taken from us in an act of pure evil by a terrorist group that the world rightly associates with inhumanity.”

He added: “His life and deeds stand in stark contrast to everything that Isil represents. While Isil revels in the slaughter of innocents, including Muslims, and is bent only on sowing death and destruction, Abdul-Rahman was a humanitarian who worked to save the lives of Syrians injured and dispossessed by the Syrian conflict.”

Previous beheading videos showed a desert landscape but in this latest release, the IS militant appears to be standing in front of a town with fields in the distance.

Mr Kassig’s severed head is shown at the feet of a militant wearing black trousers and military-style khaki boots.

Speaking before the video emerged, Mr Cameron said he wanted Jihadi John to face justice, after reports that he had been injured in an allied air strike against IS commanders in Iraq.

The masked fanatic, believed to be responsible for the beheading of two British and two American hostages, is reported to have been taken to hospital after narrowly escaping death in the raid.

He has become one of the world’s most wanted men after the first beheading footage – the killing of US journalist James Foley – was broadcast in August.

The latest video is the fifth time this year that IS has published footage showing the murder of western hostages.

The beheading of Mr Foley was followed by a video showing the death of fellow US journalist Steven Sotloff, broadcast on 2 September.

Footage of the murders of British aid workers David Haines, from Perth, and Alan Henning, of Eccles, were made public on 13 September and 3 October respectively.

Mr Kassig’s parents, Paula and Ed Kassig, broke their silence last month because “the dynamics” had changed and they feared for his life.

SCOTSMAN TABLET AND IPHONE APPS

• Download your free 30-day trial for our iPad, Android and Kindle apps