The possible next victim of the Islamic State militant group is Army Ranger veteran Peter E. Kassig, who moved to the Middle East to do humanitarian work before being taken hostage.
Kassig is shown at the end of a video released Friday that depicts the apparent beheading of Alan Henning, a British humanitarian aid worker who was taken hostage in Syria last year. Kassig started a small medical relief company known as Special Emergency Response and Assistance, or SERA, in 2012 that has headquarters in Gaziantep, Turkey, according to the company’s LinkedIn page. The city is close to the Syrian border and a way station of sorts for relief workers and journalists.
Kassig also was an employee with TYR Solutions LTD, a British firm that provides security and consulting and training for individuals planning to go to war zones, according to his LinkedIn profile.
Kassig enlisted as an infantryman, and was in the Army from June 2006 to September 2007 before being medically discharged as a private first class, Army officials aid. He was with the Army’s famous 75th Ranger Regiment from October 2006 to September 2007, and deployed with them to Iraq from April to July 2007.
Kassig said in an interview published by Time magazine last year that he traveled to the Middle East in 2012 after leaving the Army and while on spring break from Butler University in Indiana. He wanted to learn about the humanitarian crisis in Syria firsthand and see what he could do to raise awareness about it.
In a web page raising funds for his cause, the former soldier said he felt that more could be done to help the Syrians, and thought the most effective way was “through a close connection to those who were in desperate need, by meeting them where they were.”
“We may not have much but I have always felt that the reasons why you do something are as important as what you do,” he wrote. “This is about making a difference not just through material goods, but also the exchange of ideas and experiences that the interanational [sic] community benefits from through this type of iniative [sic].”
In a 2012 interview with CNN, Kassig said that he first traveled to the Lebanese capital of Beirut where he studied how complicated the conflict was. He said some people questioned what he was doing. He told CNN he also wondered whether America was doing enough to help, although he didn’t support military intervention.
“This is real, and it’s scary stuff, and it’s sad what is happening to people here,” he told CNN. “People back home need to know about it, they need to know. Sometimes you gotta take a stand, you gotta draw a line somewhere.”