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ISIS Crisis

Report: U.S. knew about attempts between an attorney and clerics to free ISIS hostage

Before Abdul-Rahman (Peter) Kassig was killed by ISIS militants in November, an attorney, working with senior jihadi clerics, attempted to negotiate his release, The Guardian reports.

Emails viewed by The Guardian show talks began in mid-October with the knowledge of the FBI. It all started with New York lawyer Stanley Cohen, who in the past represented a son-in-law of Osama bin Laden and members of Hamas in U.S. courts. He convinced two al-Qaeda-affiliated clerics, Abu Muhammed al-Maqdisi and Abu Qatada, as well as a former Guantanamo Bay prisoner, to reach out to ISIS to free Kassig.

FBI staff confirmed to The Guardian that senior officials knew of Cohen's actions. Cohen drew up protocol that would have allowed Maqdisi to make contact with ISIS without fear of being charged. Under the deal with ISIS, Maqdisi would agree to stop denouncing the group in public as extremists, while ISIS would free Kassig and discontinue kidnapping and murdering foreign hostages.

Negotiations collapsed in late October when Jordanian security services arrested Maqdisi for "using the internet to promote and incite views of jihadi terrorist organizations." The FBI told The Guardian it never provided assurance to Maqdisi or Cohen that he would be immune from charges if he reached out to ISIS; Cohen said he believed the deal had been made. "I feel we lost a golden opportunity to not only save Kassig but other potential hostages," he told The Guardian. Maqdisi is still in a Jordanian prison.