British hostage of ISIS was helping displaced Syrians, aid group says

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Story highlights

  • Man threatened in ISIS video was working for French aid group ACTED
  • David Haines was abducted near aid camp in Syria in March 2013, ACTED says
  • Haines was logistics manager, in charge of securing food, other aid for thousands
  • "The threats on David Haines' life are intolerable," aid group says
A British hostage whose life ISIS threatened in a video was helping to provide humanitarian relief in Syria when he was abducted last year, an aid agency said.
David Haines is a logistics and security manager for ACTED, a Paris-based relief organization that was helping provide food, tents and water at a camp for tens of thousands of people displaced by Syria's civil war, the agency said Friday.
Haines, 44, is a longtime aid worker who has helped victims of conflict since 1999, ACTED said. He was near the camp at Atmeh, Syria, close to the Turkey border, when he was abducted in March 2013, ACTED spokesman Adrien Tomarchio said.
ISIS, an Islamist militant group that calls itself the Islamic State, posted a video online this week showing the beheading of American journalist Steven Sotloff -- the second beheading of a U.S. journalist by ISIS in two weeks.
After the beheading, the video shows and threatens the life of a man that it identifies as Haines.
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"ACTED is deeply shocked by the images broadcasted earlier this week. The threats on David Haines' life are intolerable," the aid group said in a statement.
"A man's life should never be threatened on account of his humanitarian commitment," the group added.
ISIS blamed the Americans' killings on President Barack Obama's decision last month to conduct airstrikes in Iraq against the militant group.
ISIS, one of the major belligerents in Syria's civil war pitting rebel groups against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, has taken large swaths of northern and eastern Syria and northern and western Iraq for what it says is its new Islamic caliphate.
The group has brutally slaughtered both religious minorities and fellow Muslims as it tries to expand its rule, with witnesses and videos testifying of crucifixions and public executions.
As logistics manager, Haines had been in charge of procuring humanitarian goods for people staying at the Atmeh camp, Tomarchio said.
Haines' years of experience as an aid worker has made him a reassuring presence among his colleagues, Tomarchio said. Haines has helped victims of conflict in the Balkans, Africa and the Middle East, the spokesman said.
The Atmeh camp still is operating, but Tomarchio wouldn't say whether ACTED remains involved there. The group does have relief activities in Syria that are managed from a distance, he said.
The United Kingdom said this week it had attempted to rescue one of its citizens held by ISIS "some time ago" but failed.
UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond provided scant details of the rescue attempt or any other plans in the works.
"You wouldn't expect me to discuss various options that we will be considering," he said. "But I can assure you that we will look at every possible option to protect this person."