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Islamic State Beheads British Aid Worker, Makes New Threat


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. People who call themselves the Islamic State have released a video showing them killing a British man. Alan Henning was a taxi driver who wound up in the group's hands after he went to Syria to try and help people in that suffering country. Alan Henning is the fourth westerner known to have been killed by ISIS. NPR's Kelly McEvers reports.

KELLY MCEVERS, BYLINE: The latest video shows Briton Alan Henning kneeling in an empty desert. Henning gives a short speech saying he's being punished for the U.K. parliament support of airstrikes against Islamic State militants. Then a militant dressed in black puts a knife to Henning's neck. The following images make it clear Henning is dead. Henning was a taxi driver from northern England, who friends and relatives say raised money to bring aid to Syria. Here he is just before going into Syria last year.


ALAN HENNING: It's all worthwhile when you see what is needed actually gets to where it needs to go.

MCEVERS: It's all worthwhile, he says, when you see what's needed when it gets to where it needs to go. It was December last year and Henning was on his way to bring supplies to a hospital in northwest Syria. He was stopped by gunmen and kidnapped. While he was being held his wife Barbara released this appeal to Islamic State militants, asking them to declare Henning innocent and release him.


BARBARA HENNING: Some say wrong time, wrong place. Alan was volunteering with his Muslim friends to help the people of Syria. He was in the right place doing the right thing.

MCEVERS: Henning is survived by his wife and two teenaged children. His friends and relatives were not the only ones to appeal. Prominent Muslim preachers in the U.K. who were critics of the government there even spoke out against violence against Henning. Here's Imam Shakeel Begg also asking for Henning's release.


IMAM SHAKEEL BEGG: There simply is no justification in our religion which allows you to continue to hold him, let alone harm him.

MCEVERS: Sources inside Syria say Henning might actually have been killed several days ago. In the video after he is killed a militant threatens to kill Peter Kassig, a 26-year-old American, a former Army Ranger who served one tour in Iraq and who also went to Syria to deliver food, aid and medical supplies. He was kidnapped a year ago on his way into Syria. His family says he converted to Islam while he was being held and now goes by the name Abdul-Rahman Kassig. The family was told by hostages who were held with Kassig and later released that his faith has given him comfort during his captivity.

Kelly McEvers, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Kelly McEvers is a two-time Peabody Award-winning journalist and former host of NPR's flagship newsmagazine, All Things Considered. She spent much of her career as an international correspondent, reporting from Asia, the former Soviet Union, and the Middle East. She is the creator and host of the acclaimed Embedded podcast, a documentary show that goes to hard places to make sense of the news. She began her career as a newspaper reporter in Chicago.
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