The Complex

Islamic State Kills British Hostage Alan Henning

A new video released by the self-proclaimed Islamic State on Friday purports to show the beheading of Alan Henning, a British citizen, marking the fourth time that the militant group has murdered a Western hostage on film in retaliation for a U.S.-led campaign of airstrikes in Iraq and Syria. In a statement, Prime Minister David ...

Christopher Furlong / Getty Images News
Christopher Furlong / Getty Images News

A new video released by the self-proclaimed Islamic State on Friday purports to show the beheading of Alan Henning, a British citizen, marking the fourth time that the militant group has murdered a Western hostage on film in retaliation for a U.S.-led campaign of airstrikes in Iraq and Syria.

In a statement, Prime Minister David Cameron deplored the killing. "The brutal murder of Alan Henning by ISIL shows just how barbaric and repulsive these terrorists are," Cameron said. The Islamic State is also known as ISIS or ISIL. "My thoughts and prayers tonight are with Alan’s wife Barbara, their children, and all those who loved him." President Barack Obama likewise condemned the Islamic State for killing Henning, who had gone to Syria as part of a humanitarian relief mission in the war-torn country. "Standing together with a broad coalition of allies and partners, we will continue taking decisive action to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL," Obama said in a statement.

Following the Islamic State’s previous pattern, at the end of the video a masked killer shows the next hostage that the group promises to execute if the bombing campaign doesn’t stop. That man is identified in the video as Peter Kassig, an American aid worker. Foreign Policy has been aware that Kassig was being held by the Islamic State but didn’t reveal his name at the request of family members and U.S. officials, who have said that identifying him could encourage the Islamic State to kidnap other Americans and endanger Kassig’s safety. The terrorist group has eventually beheaded all of the hostages it has shown in the videos.

There is one more American believed to be held by the militant group, a 26-year-old woman who is an aid worker. Her death would mark a pivotal moment in the grim saga of Islamic State hostages because the group hasn’t executed a Western woman on film — though it has recorded beheadings of local women. Foreign Policy isn’t releasing the hostage’s name.

In Henning’s murder video, his killer lambastes Cameron for participating in the U.S. campaign against the Islamic State. On Thursday, Cameron traveled to an air base in Cyprus where British pilots are launching airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Iraq. So far, the British military hasn’t conducted strikes on the militant group in Syria, but Cameron said the attacks in Iraq would continue.

The executions have sparked widespread condemnation from government officials and citizens in many countries, particularly on social media, where people have encouraged others not to share the video or show any still images from it.

Henning, a taxi driver from Salford, England, was kidnapped in Syria in December while delivering aid to citizens in the war-ravaged country. On Tuesday, Henning’s wife appealed publicly for his release, saying, "He is innocent."

This article has been updated.

Justine Drennan contributed reporting.

 Twitter: @shaneharris

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