WASHINGTON/BEIRUT — Islamic State militants fighting in Iraq and Syria released a video on Friday that purported to show the beheading of a man it identified as British citizen Alan Henning.
The footage on YouTube, which was linked to on pro-Islamic State Twitter feeds, showed a man in an orange jumpsuit kneeling in a landscape who was identified as Henning.
“Because of our parliament’s decision to attack the Islamic State, I, as a member of the British public, will now pay the price for that decision,” the kneeling man says. Another man dressed in black and wearing a balaclava stands next to him.
A male voice then says, “The blood of David Haines was on your hands, Cameron,” in a reference to Britain’s prime minister. “Alan Henning will also be slaughtered, but his blood is on the hands of the British parliament.”
The video shows the man in black making sawing motions at the kneeling man’s neck. The video cuts to show a body in an orange jumpsuit lying on its front and a severed head balanced on the back of the corpse.
The black-clad man then introduces another hostage who he identifies as American Peter Edward Kassig.
U.S. officials confirmed that an American of that name was being held by the militants and said they had no reason to doubt the authenticity of the video, titled “Another Message to America and its Allies.”
“If true, this is a further disgusting murder,” a British Foreign Office spokesman said. “We are offering the family every support possible; they ask to be left alone at this time.”
It is “another demonstration of the brutality” of Islamic State militants if the video proves authentic, Lisa Monaco, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, told a White House news briefing.
The beheading of Henning was the fourth such killing of a Westerner by Islamic State, which has seized large swaths of Iraq and Syria and has been blamed for a wave of sectarian violence. Previous Islamic State videos have shown the beheadings of two American journalists and a British aid worker.
Britain, a close U.S. ally, recently announced it was joining a U.S.-led air assault against the Sunni militant group’s targets in Iraq, after weeks of weighing its options.
Henning, a 47-year-old taxi driver from Salford in northern England, was part of an aid convoy taking medical supplies to a hospital in northwest Syria in December last year when it was stopped by gunmen and he was abducted.
Muslim groups across Britain, including some organizations that are highly critical of British foreign policy and blame Western interference for fanning the recent crisis in Iraq and Syria, had called in vain for his release.
His wife Barbara had called him a “a peaceful, selfless man” and appealed to Islamic State to release him.
Near the end of the one-minute, 11-second video, the black-clad masked man clutches the top of the orange jumpsuit of the man identified as Kassig. “Obama, you have started your aerial bombardment in Sham (Syria), which keeps on striking our people. So it is only right that we continue to strike the necks of your people.”
Matt Spetalnick reported from Washington and Sylvia Westall in Beirut. Additional reporting by Mark Hosenball from Washington.