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U.S. counter-terrorism officials backed a negotiation between jihadi clerics and ISIS in a failed effort to save the life of American hostage Peter Kassig, according to The Guardian.
New York lawyer Stanley Cohen, who represented Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law in U.S. courts, orchestrated a plan to save Kassig by asking a pair of senior al-Qaida clerics to intervene with ISIS on behalf of saving the American hostage.
Cohen also contacted an unnamed Kuwaiti al-Qaida veteran and one-time Guantánamo Bay detainee.
In response to Cohen’s request for help to free Kassig, the Kuwaiti replied: “We want to save him.”
Their aim was not just to free Kassig but to get Isis permanently out of the business of taking and murdering civilian hostages, a tactic that has horrified many jihadis and deepened the theological battle between the group and al-Qaida.
FBI staff confirmed to The Guardian that senior officials were aware of the efforts and would be willing to pay $24,000 of Cohen and his Arabic translator’s expenses.
Had it been successful, the negotiation would have carried a high risk for the US. In return for renouncing hostage-taking, Isis was offered a clerical détente: Maqdisi, Abu Qatada and other senior religious figures in al-Qaida’s sphere of influence would stop publicly denouncing Isis as extremists without proper Islamic qualifications.
A protocol was drawn up between the FBI and Jordanian authorities to allow Maqdisi to contact a former student who is ISIS’ chief “scholar at arms.”
Negotiations proceeded and Cohen said Isis told him, through intermediaries, Kassig would remain alive during negotiations.
But the next day, Jordanian security services arrested Maqdisi for “using the internet to promote and incite views of jihadi terrorist organisations” and the negotiations collapsed.
Kassig was eventually beheaded and Maqdisi remains in prison in Jordan.
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