On October 3, ISIS announced in an online video that Kassig would be its next beheading target. A media representative for the group said that if America did not stop attacking ISIS-controlled areas, Kassig would be killed by October 22. ISIS captured Kassig on October 1, 2013, while the North Central graduate was an aid worker in war-torn Syria. During captivity, Kassig completed his conversion to Islam, changed his name, and participated in Ramadan last fall. Kassig graduated from high school in 2006, and then attended Hanover College from 2007 to 2009 after serving in the Iraq War. In 2011, he enrolled at Butler University and visited Lebanon during the 2012 spring break. Later that year, he founded Special Emergency Response and Assistance (SERA), a nongovernmental organization that provides food, medical care, and clothing for refugees of the Syrian conflict.
“When others headed for the beach, he went to Beirut,” said Ed Kassig, Abdul-Rahman’s father. The elder Kassig spoke at a prayer vigil held October 17 at Alhuda Foundation in Fishers. During the event, organizers announced the social-media campaign. Other members of Kassig’s family attended the ceremony, where they were surrounded by dozens of well-wishers who prayed for his release and safe return home. “We’re doing what we can to try to bring him back,” said Hazem Bata, secretary general of the Plainfield-based Islamic Society of North America. “We’re hoping that we place a seed of doubt somewhere in someone’s mind that will eventually lead to Abdul-Rahman’s return.”
Kassig’s family and members of the Indianapolis Muslim community are not the only ones asking for the aid worker’s release. Abu Omar Aqidi, an upper-echelon member of the al-Qaeda faction Jabhat al-Nusra, also employed social media to call for mercy for Kassig. In a series of tweets this week, Aqidi stated that Kassig treated him for a shrapnel wound and tended to other injured al-Queda members fighting the Syrian regime. Here, a sampling of tweets on Kassig’s behalf:
#JusticeForAbdulRahmanKassig. Abdul risked his life for the people of Syria. We call for his release
— Ali B (she/her) (@AliBaskerville) October 18, 2014
— Olivia Alabaster (@OliviaAlabaster) October 18, 2014
A Facebook group named “Mercy for Abdul-Rahman Kassig—formerly Peter” has also been set up to post updates about the young aid worker.