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Abdul-Rahman Kassig

A second Frenchman features in a video showing the beheading of Syrian prisoners, and US hostage Abdul-Rahman Kassig killed by Islamic State (ISIS).

The Frenchman has been identified by media as Michael Dos Santos, 22, an Islamic convert from an eastern Paris suburb.

Earlier, the government identified the first French militant as Maxime Hauchard, a convert from Normandy.

About 1,000 French jihadists are thought to have gone to Syria and Iraq.

France’s PM Manuel Valls said after a security meeting in Beauvais, north of Paris, that “close to 50” French citizens had died in Syria.

“Sadly, we are not surprised to learn that French citizens or residents of France are found at the heart of these cells and taking part in this barbarity,” he added.

On a visit to Australia, President Francois Hollande told reporters in Canberra “there were two French people” in the video.

“One has been categorically identified and the other one is in the process of being identified,” he said.

An official in the Paris prosecutor’s office, Agnes Thibault-Lecuivre, said there was a “strong presumption” that it was Michael Dos Santos, from the Parisian suburb of Champigny-sur-Marne, in the video, AP news agency reports.

According to France 2, Michael Dos Santos had been identified by a friend, who recalled how the man had surprised his family when he suddenly converted to Islam.

Francois Hollande said officials had not established the “exact role” of the two militants.

He called for families to be given more information about the danger of jihadist websites and urged families to be “vigilant” in stopping young people from being recruited by extremists.

Earlier this week, Maxime Hauchard was named by a French prosecutor as one of those leading Syrian prisoners to their execution.

In the latest ISIS video – unlike previous ones showing beheadings – several militants appear with their heads uncovered.

The footage showed 18 Syrian prisoners, described as soldiers, forced to kneel in front of the militants before being beheaded.

The men were described as pilots and officers loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Reuters news agency reported.

The video also shows the severed head of Abdul-Rahman Kassig, a US aid worker who was kidnapped in Syria last year.

ISIS said the video was shot in the Syrian town of Dabiq, which features in Islamic prophecies as the site of a final battle between Muslims and their enemies.

Analysts say the video was elaborately produced, but also reflected IS’s weakness, as its militants had been driven off key sites by US-led coalition air strikes.

Concerns about the involvement of French citizens in the conflict were heightened after a gun attack earlier this year on a Jewish museum in Brussels.

The attack, in which four people were killed, was carried out by 29-year-old Mehdi Nemmouche, a Frenchman who had fought as a jihadist in Syria.

France has the largest Muslim community in western Europe outside Russia, and is thought to provide the biggest contingent of Western jihadists in Syria and Iraq.

Earlier this month, France convicted its first such returnee with a jail term of seven years, our correspondent adds.

The government has also given police new powers to confiscate passports, to prevent people travelling abroad to join militants.

The death of Abdul-Rahman Kassig, whose killing was shown in a video posted by Islamic State (ISIS), President Barack Obama has confirmed.

Barack Obama called the act “pure evil” and offered his condolences to the family of Abdul-Rahman Kassig, 26.

Abdul-Rahman Kassig, also known as Peter Kassig, was abducted in Syria last year.

The video, authenticated by the White House, shows a masked man standing over Abdul-Rahman Kassig’s severed head.

It also shows a beheading of 18 Syrians identified as army officers and pilots.

The president praised Peter Kassig as a humanitarian and said he was “taken from us in an act of pure evil by a terrorist group that the world rightly associates with inhumanity”.

“Today we offer our prayers and condolences to the parents and family of Abdul-Rahman Kassig, also known to us as Peter,” he added.

Barack Obama’s comments came as he flew back to the US from Australia where he was attending the G20 summit.

Peter Kassig was a former US Army Ranger who served in Iraq.

He later trained as an emergency medical technician and founded the Special Emergency Response and Assistance (SERA) organization, helping to supply camps on both sides of the Syrian border.

Peter Kassig was undertaking a project for SERA when he was captured in October 2013 while travelling to eastern Syria.

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According to a former cellmate, American hostage Abdul-Rahman Kassig, known as Peter Kassig before he converted to Islam, is now a “dedicated Muslim”.

Peter Kassig, an aid worker, was kidnapped in Syria by the so-called Islamic State.

Abdul-Rahman Kassig, 26, always cut a slightly unworldly figure on the Turkish-Syrian border: open, honest, slightly intense, beguiled by Syria’s uprising and motivated by the simple desire to help people. It didn’t surprise me when his parents later spoke about him “searching for his place in the world”.

Peter Kassig found that place giving medical training to Syrians, teaching skills that probably saved a number of lives. It was a job with many risks: bullets and bombs; air strikes and kidnapping.

“The last time I saw him,” said a Syrian colleague, Dr. Anas Mulla, “I asked: Aren’t you scared for your life? He said: My life isn’t worth more than all of yours.”

Going to Deir Azour in northern Syria a year ago, Abdul-Rahman was seized by the group calling itself Islamic State. They have said he will be the next Western hostage to die.

The French journalist Nicholas Henin was held with Abdul-Rahman Kassig for four months – before being freed along with the other French hostages.

“The beginning of his detention had been a bit hard,” Nicolas Henin said of his former cellmate.

“He was quite affected by his captivity.”

Abdul-Rahman Kassig was known as Peter Kassig before he converted to Islam

Abdul-Rahman Kassig was known as Peter Kassig before he converted to Islam

Nicolas Hennin spoke to me in Paris. Taxis trundled by on a cobbled street outside as he described the mixture of hunger, boredom and terror experienced by the Western hostages.

“The routine was mostly waiting for food, because we never received enough. And Abdul-Rahman was basically sharing all of his food but looking for sweets. He was always looking for some extra marmalade.”

Shortly after being kidnapped, Peter Kassig converted and now uses the Muslim name Abdul-Rahman.

“When I first met him, he was introducing himself already to all the guards as Abdul-Rahman,” said Nicolas Henin.

“Peter told me about how important Islam was to him, how much it helped to overcome his situation in captivity. And he was a very dedicated Muslim. He gave me the impression that he was a bit fragile, but that Islam was strengthening him.”

Abdul-Rahman Kassig wasn’t the only Western hostage to become a Muslim.

“In our group of hostages there were a few who converted. They were practicing … the five daily prayers and they would even sometimes perform two extra prayers…They would fast on Mondays and Thursdays, which is extra [to what is mandated] … like … dedicated Muslims.”

That was an elliptical reference to the stories about the hostages being beaten and even tortured.

He continued: “For some guards, there would be more respect to those of us who had converted. But for other captors, I had the feeling that it made no difference.”

Abdul-Rahman Kassig managed to get a letter out to his family. In it, he wrote: “In terms of my faith, I pray every day and I am not angry about my situation in that sense. I am in a dogmatically complicated situation here, but I am at peace with my belief.”

His parents interpret that as a statement he is now Muslim. They hope desperately that his faith will save him.

His family must hope that “Peter Kassig” becoming “Abdul-Rahman Kassig” may help. They will also be painfully aware that Islamic State has not hesitated to kill many Muslims – Iraqis and Syrians – in the course of their bloody campaign.

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Peter Kassig’s parents have released a letter he has written in captivity.

Peter Edward Kassig, 26, is an American hostage who is being held by Islamic State (ISIS) militants in Syria.

He converted to Islam in 2013, changing his name to Abdul-Rahman Kassig.

Abdul-Rahman Kassig wrote in June 2014 that he was “scared to die” and saddened by the pain his ordeal was causing to the family.

Last week ISIS posted a video showing the killing of British hostage Alan Henning. The video ended with a threat to kill Peter Kassig.

It was the fourth such video released by ISIS, which controls large swathes of Syria and Iraq.

Previous victims were American reporter James Foley, American-Israeli journalist Steven Sotloff and British aid worker David Haines.

ISIS said they were killed in retaliation for US-led air strikes on the group’s targets.

Peter Edward Kassig is being held by ISIS militants in Syria

Peter Edward Kassig is being held by ISIS militants in Syria

Peter Kassig’s parents, Ed and Paula Kassig, said they had decided to release excerpts from their son’s letter “so the world can understand why we and so many people care for him and admire him”.

“We want to send our heartfelt thanks to the many people around the world who have offered their prayers and support to our family at this difficult time, and especially to those who know our son and worked with him in Lebanon, Turkey or Syria. We are overwhelmed by the response from those who consider Abdul-Rahman a hero for the work he was doing before he was taken captive.”

In the letter, Abdul-Rahman Kassig wrote: “I am obviously pretty scared to die but the hardest part is not knowing, wondering, hoping, and wondering if I should even hope at all.

“I am very sad that all this has happened and for what all of you back home are going through.

“If I do die, I figure that at least you and I can seek refuge and comfort in knowing that I went out as a result of trying to alleviate suffering and helping those in need.

“In terms of my faith, I pray every day and I am not angry about my situation in that sense.”

The letter – which the parents received on June 2 – ends with the words: “I love you.”

Peter Kassig’s parents said he had been working for the relief organization he founded, Special Emergency Response and Assistance (SERA), when he was captured on his way to Deir Ezzor in eastern Syria in 2013.

In a statement they said their son’s “journey toward Islam” had begun before he was taken captive but they understood he had converted voluntarily late last year while sharing a cell with a devout Muslim.

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