Muslims in Same Aid Convoy as Alan Henning Plead for His Release
The organizer of a British Muslim aid convoy that was with Alan Henning when he was kidnapped in Syria has launched a direct appeal to the leader of the terrorist organization that is threatening the life of the British national.
In a video posted to YouTube, Pervez Rafiq appears in traditional Muslim dress and pleads with Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), also known as the Islamic State, vouching for Henning's innocence and good intentions.
"[Henning] has shown through his actions and love and concern for our brothers and sisters that he is not an enemy of Islam or the Islamic State," Rafiq said. "We plead with you to show him compassion and mercy as he showed compassion and mercy for the Muslims of Syria."
Rafiq chokes up as he says, "Please, please, please release Alan."
Also today British television aired what appears to be the last known video of Henning before he was taken hostage in December 2013. In the video, Henning appears determined and enthusiastic about the aid convoy's mission to help the Syrian people.
"It's all worthwhile, you see, what is needed absolutely gets where it needs to go - that makes it all worthwhile, no sacrifice we do is compared to what they go through every day on a daily basis" Henning said the video, reportedly filmed on Christmas day in a restaurant in Turkey hours before the aid convoy crossed into Syria.
Henning reportedly left his wife of 23 years, Barbara, 45, and two teenage children at home in Salford, Greater Manchester, last Christmastime to join a group of Muslim friends in making what British newspaper The Bolton News described as a 20-vehicle, 4,000-mile journey to Syria to deliver medical supplies to refugees caught up in the country's civil war. Masked gunmen reportedly stopped the convoy after it crossed the Turkish border Dec. 26 and targeted Henning, separating him from the group.
"He was taking over old ambulances, just helping out as much as he could," a close friend told the Telegraph newspaper on Sunday. "There were a few of them that went out with him. They were just a group of mates that started it all off. They were supposed to be over there for about six months, but he was kidnapped just a few days after he left."
Henning was identified as the next ISIS victim at the end of the beheading video of British aid worker David Haines released Saturday. Prior to Haines' death, an self-described ISIS militant was suspected of killing American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff.
Henning had reportedly previously traveled to Syria as part of two similar humanitarian aid convoys organized by the small, informal volunteer group Aid 4 Syria and the UK Arab Society. BBC journalist Catrin Nye met Henning while making a documentary about such convoys to Syria and told the Guardian how the first trip to Syria moved Henning to do more.
"It had been a life-changing experience," Nye said. "He had handed out the goods. He described holding the children … and how that really affected him. He told me he had to go back."
Henning even permanently inked his commitment to the cause, as another convoy organizer told The Bolton News, "He loved the cause so much that when he went on holiday with his family, he had a big tattoo across his arm, saying, 'aid for Syria.' He was that dedicated."