‘Precision strikes’ in Syria kill IS leader linked to beheading of American aid worker Peter Kassig
- Peter Kassig, aged 26 at the time of his death, was among a group of prisoners decapitated by jihadists in November 2014
- US had reason to suspect that jihadist Abu al-Umarayn posed an ‘immediate threat’ to coalition forces
An Islamic State group leader involved in the execution of American aid worker Peter Kassig and other Western prisoners was targeted in a strike by the US-led anti-jihadist coalition in Syria.
Kassig, aged 26 at the time of his death, was among a group of prisoners decapitated by jihadists in November 2014.
Kassig, who changed his name to Abdul-Rahman Kassig after he converted to Islam while in Islamic State captivity, was executed the year after he was taken hostage in Syria.
His captors released a video showing his decapitated head beside his body but did not include scenes of the actual execution, unlike with the other hostages they killed.
Colonel Sean Ryan, a US military spokesman, identified the Islamic State commander as Abu al-Umarayn and said he was killed in “precision strikes” in a desert area known as Badiya.
The coalition had reason to suspect that Umarayn posed an “immediate threat” to coalition forces in the area, Ryan said.
Umarayn was also “involved in the killing of American citizen and former US Army ranger Peter Kassig”, the statement said, and was linked to or directly involved in executing several other prisoners.
Umarayn is the first Islamic State figure to be publicly identified as having been involved in Kassig’s execution.
Mohammed Enwazi, the masked Briton who became known as “Jihadi John” and was the ringleader of a group of four Islamic State fighters nicknamed “The Beatles” by their captives, was killed in an air strike in 2015.
He was identified as the man who appeared in the video of the execution of American journalist James Foley in August 2014.
The US military did not say how it knew Umarayn was involved in Kassig’s killing or what role he may have played.
He was with several other Islamic State members when the strikes were carried out, Ryan said.
In 2006-07, Kassig served in Iraq as a medic with the US Army Rangers.
At the time of his capture, he was volunteering as an aid worker in Syria, providing medical help and training to Syrians in areas hit hard by the country’s war.
He was on his way to the province of Deir al-Zour in eastern Syria when he was kidnapped by the Islamic State, which is also known as IS, near the city of Raqqa.
Kassig’s mother Paula reached out directly to IS militants to plead for her son’s life.
Agence France-Presse, The Washington Post