ISIS video shows beheading of U.K. aid worker

by Mickey McLean
Posted 9/13/14, 07:05 pm

A video posted online by ISIS on Saturday claims to show the beheading of David Haines, a 44-year-old aid worker from the U.K. who was abducted in Syria last year. The video appeared a day after Haines’ family made a public plea to his captors to contact them.

The British Foreign Office said late Saturday that it was “working urgently to verify” the video.

“If true, this is another disgusting murder,” the Foreign Office said in a statement. “We are offering the family every support possible. They ask to be left alone at this time.”

Later, British Prime Minister David Cameron confirmed Haines’ death in a statement posted late Saturday on his official Twitter account.

Cameron, who condemned the slaying as “an act of pure evil,” returned to his residence at Downing Street in London and is expected to chair a meeting of the government’s emergency response team on Sunday.

Cameron vowed to do “everything in our power to hunt down these murderers and ensure they face justice, however long it takes.”

U.S. President Barack Obama issued a statement Saturday night condemning “the barbaric murder” of Haines by ISIS.

“The United States stands shoulder to shoulder tonight with our close friend and ally in grief and resolve,” he said. “We will work with the United Kingdom and a broad coalition of nations from the region and around the world to bring the perpetrators of this outrageous act to justice, and to degrade and destroy this threat to the people of our countries, the region and the world.”

Haines’ beheading is the third such atrocity committed on a Westerner by the terrorist group. Previously, ISIS videos showed the beheadings of two American journalists, James Foley and Steven Sotloff, both of which were later confirmed. ISIS has also beheaded Kurdish and Lebanese fighters and posted video evidence online.

Michael Rubin, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, said ISIS releases these videos because it believes neither the American nor the European public has the stomach for a protracted conflict in which civilians are tortured and killed.

“Each video that’s released, of course, is a propaganda coup, if you will,” said Rubin, a Pentagon official in the George W. Bush administration.

Rubin added that if the slaying of Haines took place in the last few days, it suggests that U.S. and other forces have no idea where the extremists are keeping their captives and that, in turn, means a lack of intelligence about what goes on within the group itself.

The British government had kept Haines’ captivity a secret out of concern for his safety. But near the end of the Sotloff video, it was revealed that Haines was a prisoner of ISIS, as the terrorists showed him on camera and threaten to kill him next.

Haines’ purported killer in the video, titled “A Message to the Allies of America,” appears to be the same man with a British accent who spoke in the previous videos. The terrorist in the video tells the British government that its alliance with the United States will only “accelerate your destruction” and will drag the British people into “another bloody and unwinnable war.” In the video, ISIS threatened to kill another Briton.

According to a report from The Guardian, Haines was born in east Yorkshire and grew up in Perth, Scotland. He served 12 years in the Royal Air Force and then went to work as a security adviser and manager for non-governmental organizations. 

For the past 15 years, Haines worked with refugees in Yugoslavia, the disabled in Libya, and those who monitor cease-fires in South Sudan. In 2013 he went to Syria on behalf of ACTED, a French aid organization that bills itself as being apolitical and nonreligious, to look for possible sites for refugee camps near the Turkish border. He only had been in the country for three days when he was abducted along with an Italian aid worker and their Syrian driver and translator.

Mike Haines said in a statement issued by the British Foreign Office that his brother was devoted to humanitarian work.

“David was most alive and enthusiastic in his humanitarian roles,” Mike Haines said. “His joy and anticipation for the work he went to do in Syria is for myself and family the most important element of this whole sad affair. He was and is loved by all his family and will be missed terribly.”

The Guardian reported that David Haines has been married twice and has two daughters: Bethaney, 17, who lives in Perth, and Athea, 4, who lives with his second wife, Dragana, in Croatia. “He’s everything to us,” Dragana Haines told the Daily Telegraph. “He’s our life. He’s a fantastic man and father.” 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. This story has been updated since its initial posting.

Mickey McLean

Mickey is WORLD’s executive editor for audience engagement. He previously was the executive editor for WORLD Digital. Mickey resides in Greensboro, N.C. Follow him on Twitter @MickeyMcLean.

Read more from this writer