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US reviews hostage policy after killings

Updated: 2014-11-19 08:13
By Agencies in Beirut and Washington (China Daily)

Major study will focus on intelligence collection and diplomatic engagement

US President Barack Obama has ordered a review of how Washington can secure the release of US hostages, as intelligence agencies investigated the involvement of Westerners in the beheading of aid worker Peter Kassig.

Details of the review emerged just 24 hours after the release of a video by the Islamic State claiming the beheading of Kassig.

He was the third United States citizen to be killed by IS, following the deaths of journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff.

On Monday, the parents of 26-year-old Kassig paid tribute to their son and said they would try to "forgive" the killers.

Christine Wormuth, the US undersecretary of defense for policy, said the review will focus "on examining family engagement, intelligence collection and diplomatic engagement policies".

"The president recently directed a comprehensive review of the US government policy on overseas terrorist-related hostage cases," Wormuth said in a letter to a member of US Congress that was posted on The Daily Beast news site.

US reviews hostage policy after killings

The move, she said, comes "as a result of the increased frequency of hostage-taking of Americans overseas, and the recognition of the dynamic threat posed by specific terrorist groups".

Healing and prayer

The killing of Kassig and the simultaneous beheadings of at least 18 Syrian military personnel in the video sparked global horror, with Obama calling it "an act of pure evil".

Kassig's parents on Monday called for healing and prayer as they mourned their loss.

"Please allow our small family the time and privacy to mourn, cry and - yes - forgive, and begin to heal," Peter's father Ed said in an emotional address outside his church.

"Please pray for Abdul-Rahman, or Pete if that's how you knew him, at sunset this evening. Pray also for all people in Syria, in Iraq and around the world that are held against their will."

Peter's mother, Paula, said while the couple's world had been torn apart by the death of their son, they would focus on healing.

"Our hearts are battered. But they will mend. The world is broken, but it will be healed in the end," she said.

French executioner

It was the latest in a series of atrocities by IS, which has seized control of large parts of Iraq and Syria.

Among the militants shown beheading the Syrian soldiers were some known foreign fighters, including at least one Frenchman and possibly a Briton, an Australian and a Dane.

French authorities identified one of the executioners as Maxime Hauchard, a 22-year-old from a small village in northern France who left for Syria in August last year.

The Paris prosecutor's office said "circumstantial evidence confirms the involvement of a Frenchman in the decapitation of Syrian prisoners shown in an IS video released on Sunday".

AP - Reuters

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