The words of heroes: Letters from ISIS captives Kassig, Foley, Sotloff


WASHINGTON, November 16, 2014 — Islamic State (ISIS) militants released another grisly beheading video, this time reportedly showing the decapitated head of U.S. hostage Peter Kassig.

The latest video is almost 16 minutes long. It does not show the attack on Kassig, but does show graphic details of beheadings of men the militants claim are pilots for the Syrian government. It also includes a twisted jihadist version of the history of ISIS, identifies the location of the atrocity as Dabiq in Syria, and includes warnings to America.

The militant highlighted in the video, who seems to have a British accent, says, “To Obama, the dog of Rome, today we are slaughtering the soldiers of Bashar and tomorrow we will be slaughtering your soldiers.”

He then adds, “And with Allah’s permission the Islamic State will soon begin to slaughter your people in your streets.”

Intelligence agencies are currently attempting to verify the authenticity of the video.

If the video is authentic, Kassig will be the third American beheaded by ISIS.

ISIS has shown itself to be an uncompromising, brutal and malicious group. It shows no mercy and no compassion.

That cruelty stands in sharp contrast to the victims ISIS has beheaded.

Peter Kassig, also known as Abdul-Rahman since his conversion to Islam in captivity, is a 26 year old aid worker from Indiana. A former solider, Kassig established the Special Emergency Response and Assistance relief organization and moved to the border area between Syria and Turkey. His group smuggled food, medicine and other supplies into hospitals and refugee areas in Syria.

A militant group kidnapped Kassig on October 1, 2013, when he was on his way to the eastern Syrian city of Deir al-Zor.

In 2012, Kassig spoke with CNN about his relief work. He said, “We each get one life and that’s it. This is what I was put here to do. I guess I’m just a hopeless romantic and an idealist.”

Last month, Kassig’s parents released parts of a letter Peter had written to them. The published excerpts state:

“This is the hardest thing a man can go through, the stress and fear are incredible.”

“They tell us you have abandoned us and/or don’t care but of course we know you are doing everything you can and more.

“Don’t worry Dad, if I do go down, I won’t go thinking anything but what I know to be true. That you and mom love me more than the moon and the stars.”

Steven Sotloff, a 31-year-old American-Israeli journalist kidnapped in Aleppo, Syria in August 2013 and beheaded by ISIS in September 2014, also wrote to his parents while in captivity. Excerpts from two letter smuggled out of Syria were read aloud at his funeral in Florida.

Statements from Sotloff included:

“Everyone has two lives. A second one begins when you realize you only have one. …Please know I am OK. Live your lives to the fullest and pray to be happy.”

“I love you, miss you, pray for you and hope to see you soon… If we’re not together again, perhaps God will be merciful enough to reunite us in Heaven.”

“Love and respect each other. Don’t fight over nonsense. Hug each other every day. Eat dinner together. Live your lives to the fullest. Stay positive and patient. God rewards those who are patient.”

James Foley, the first American targeted by ISIS, had a fellow prisoner memorize a letter to his mother. That prisoner read it to Foley’s mother after he was freed. The letter, published on Diane Foley’s Facebook account, says:

Dear Family and Friends,

I remember going to the Mall with Dad, a very long bike ride with Mom. I remember so many great family times that take me away from this prison. Dreams of family and friends take me away and happiness fills my heart.

I know you are thinking of me and praying for me. And I am so thankful. I feel you all especially when I pray. I pray for you to stay strong and to believe. I really feel I can touch you even in this darkness when I pray.

Eighteen of us have been held together in one cell, which has helped me. We have had each other to have endless long conversations about movies, trivia, sports. We have played games made up of scraps found in our cell… we have found ways to play checkers, Chess, and Risk… and have had tournaments of competition, spending some days preparing strategies for the next day’s game or lecture. The games and teaching each other have helped the time pass. They have been a huge help. We repeat stories and laugh to break the tension.

I have had weak and strong days. We are so grateful when anyone is freed; but of course, yearn for our own freedom. We try to encourage each other and share strength. We are being fed better now and daily. We have tea, occasional coffee. I have regained most of my weight lost last year.

I think a lot about my brothers and sister. I remember playing Werewolf in the dark with Michael and so many other adventures. I think of chasing Mattie and T around the kitchen counter. It makes me happy to think of them. If there is any money left in my bank account, I want it to go to Michael and Matthew. I am so proud of you, Michael and thankful to you for happy childhood memories and to you and Kristie for happy adult ones.

And big John, how I enjoyed visiting you and Cress in Germany. Thank you for welcoming me. I think a lot about RoRo and try to imagine what Jack is like. I hope he has RoRo’s personality!

And Mark… so proud of you too Bro. I think of you on the West coast and hope you are doing some snowboarding and camping, I especially remember us going to the Comedy Club in Boston together and our big hug after. The special moments keep me hopeful.

Katie, so very proud of you. You are the strongest and best of us all!! I think of you working so hard, helping people as a nurse. I am so glad we texted just before I was captured. I pray I can come to your wedding…. now I am sounding like Grammy!!

Grammy, please take your medicine, take walks and keep dancing. I plan to take you out to Margarita’s when I get home. Stay strong because I am going to need your help to reclaim my life.


Because of those like Kassig, Foley and Sotloff, no matter what gains ISIS and other terrorist groups make, they will never win.

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Lisa M. Ruth
Lisa M. Ruth is Editor-in-Chief of CDN. In addition to her editing and leadership duties, she also writes on international events, intelligence, and other topics. She has worked with CDN as a journalist since 2009. Lisa is also President of CTC International Group, Inc., a research and analysis firm in South Florida, providing actionable intelligence to decisionmakers. She started her career at the CIA, where she won several distinguished awards for her service. She holds an MA in international relations from the University of Virginia, and a BA in international relations from George Mason University. She also serves as Chairman of the Board of Horses Healing Hearts, and is involved with several other charitable organizations, including Habitat for Humanity, The Boys and Girls Clubs of America, and AYSO.