ISIS has beheaded another hostage, but while the outcome is grimly familiar, analysts say the video revealing the death of Peter Kassig has differences that hint at serious problems for the militant group. Unlike four earlier videos showing the execution of Western hostages, the quality is poor, Kassig is not seen reading a statement, and no other hostage is displayed. Instead, only the American's severed head is shown. Analysts suspect that the threat of airstrikes stopped the militants from being able to film outside for long. "The likeliest possibility is that something went wrong when they were beheading him," an expert at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies tells the New York Times. Another possibility, he says, is that Kassig resisted and the "media-savvy" militants were unable to get the video they wanted. Other analysts speculate that the hostage—who converted to Islam while in captivity—may have chosen to recite quotes from the Koran instead of his captors' script. More:
- Kassig, a former US Army Ranger, founded an organization to aid refugees from the Syrian civil war. His parents say they are heartbroken by the killing but incredibly proud of his work, the AP reports. He "lost his life as a result of his love for the Syrian people and his desire to ease their suffering," his parents, who live in Indianapolis, said in a statement.
- The latest ISIS video, which also shows the execution of 18 Syrian captives in "revolting, lingering detail," is also different because it shows the faces of many militants and gives a specific location in Syria, notes BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner. He calls Kassig's execution an "act of desperation" carried out by the group because it is unable to fight back against coalition airstrikes.
- With Kassig dead, ISIS' only remaining American hostage is a 26-year-old woman, security officials tell the Daily Beast. Like Kassig, she was kidnapped while carrying out aid work. Her name has not been made public and officials say it is significant that she doesn't appear in the group's latest video—and while it's not clear what the militants have planned for her, even ISIS is likely to carefully consider the public reaction to killing a female Western captive on camera.
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