The latest video of the beheading of American citizen Peter Kassig shows a lot of changes in the demeanour and attitude of the ISIS fighters carrying out the execution compared to the previous such gruesome videos of earlier victims.
Kassig is the fifth westerner to be beheaded by the ISIS. The first was American journalist James Foley,who was killed just over a week after Obama approved "targeted airstrikes" against ISIS. It was then followed by the killings of Steven Sotloff, David Haines and Alan Henning.
But there have been a lot changes since then in the narrative that eventually culminated in the brutal execution of 'Peter Abdul Rahman Kassig.'
Despite all its claims, ISIS has been hurt by the U.S. airstrikes. The recent setbacks in the Kurdish town of Kobani near the Turkey border have severely dented its position. Hundreds of its fighters have been killed, and the group is facing growing resistance even in Iraq. The message now is that it is planning an all-out attack against all its enemies.
Here are four things to know on ISIS' strategy toward establishing its caliphate, gathered from Peter Kassig's beheading video:
ISIS Does Not Compromise
Kassig was a devout Muslim, and had even changed his name to Abdul-Rahman Kassig. Weeks prior to the beheading, a NewsWeek report had stated that Al-Qaeda leaders had publicly condemned ISIS for threatening to kill a fellow Muslim and aid worker. Similarly, even the leaders of Jabhat al-Nusrah, an Al-Qaeda-affiliated organization, had also asked ISIS to spare Kassig.
But still, ISIS went ahead with the killing, which purports to show that the group is uncompromising and will not relent to kill even fellow Muslims, at any point.
ISIS is Improvising
The tone and the style of the latest ISIS video are much different from the past images. Unlike its previous beheading videos, wherein the victims were given an opportunity to read out a statement forced on them by ISIS, the Kassig video starts with 'Jihadi John' standing over the bloodied head of the American hostage. It is quite possible that Kassig, who is also a Muslim convert and a former soldier, refused to be coerced by ISIS.
Similarly, "Jihadi John" seems to have graduated from a lone assassin to chief executioner. The entire Kassig video is shot using several dramatic Hollywood style film angles with many 'slow motion' shots of the entire beheading process.
ISIS is Preparing for the Final Battle
One of the key points to learn from the video is the fact that ISIS is now preparing for an all out final battle. The ISIS militants emphasised on the fact that they were carrying out the killing from Dabiq; the Syrian town has much significance for Islamic followers, as according to the Islamic mythology it is the final battleground during apocalypse.
In the video, ISIS also calls for an all out war against the entire world. While in its previous beheading videos, the Islamic State fighters kept addressing the west, in the Kassig video, the ISIS 'screams out war' against the Shia, the Alawites, governments, the crusaders - almost everyone in the world.
Kassig Killed in Retaliation for Targetting al Baghdadi
ISIS took almost six weeks to decide on Kassig's fate, which is quite different from how the group has behaved in the past. All Western hostages before Kassig were killed within an interval of three weeks.
It is quite possible that his murder may have been in retaliation to the US air strikes targetting key ISIS leaders earlier last week - one in al-Qaim near the Iraq-Syria border and another in an ISIS convoy near Mosul.
A number of top-ISIS leaders reportedly have been killed. There were also unconfirmed reports that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the ISIS leader known to his followers as Caliph Ibrahim, was injured.