Alan Henning is facing the threat of beheading at the hands of ISIS, but now has an unlikely supporter —- the terrorist group al-Qaeda.
ISIS has threatened to execute Henning, a 47-year-old taxi driver who left his own family on Christmas to deliver medical aid to Muslim refugees in Syria. The group responsible for the September 11 terrorist attack is reportedly standing up for Henning, appealing to ISIS to call off his execution.
Al-Qaeda reportedly believes that Alan Henning is an innocent aid worker who put his own life in danger to help suffering Muslims.
“Al-Qaeda has been critical of ISIS in recent months. It understands how its behaviour will be perceived by the Western public,” Professor Peter Neumann, the director of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation, based at King’s College London told the Independent. “Although the two groups’ underlying ideology is still very similar, al-Qaeda is much more strategic. For example, it is not opposed to beheadings but realises it makes no sense to carry them out in the way that ISIS does because this tactic will lose them a lot of friends.”
Al-Qaeda has been critical of ISIS in the past, saying that the group is too brutal in its tactics, especially with regard to civilians. ISIS has been known to execute soldiers and local townspeople en masse, targeting nearly every group that does not share its radical Wahabi Salafist beliefs.
A coalition of nations, including several Muslim countries in the Middle East, have joined an effort to fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. The United States has conducted a series of air strikes, largely in support of Kurdish fighters who have pushed ISIS back in northern Iraq.
ISIS has already beheaded three Western journalists and aid workers, using the executions to deliver messages to the United States and British governments.
British SAS said they are unable to rescue Alan Henning, as ISIS is holding him in an undisclosed location. It is not clear just how much weight al-Qaeda’s appeal for his life carries, either.