'If not us, then who?' In the bull's-eye of ISIS

Story highlights

  • Numerous aid workers remain in Syria despite dangers
  • With a lack of government, more than 8 million refugees rely on aid agencies for food, shelter and medical care
  • Many aid agencies have no means of armed defense against attack

New York (CNN)Kayla Mueller, Peter Kassig, Alan Henning, David Haines -- just a few of the aid workers who have been abducted and killed by ISIS in the past year.

The exact number of aid workers currently being held is unknown; a level of secrecy tends to surround details of those currently captive. What we do know is ISIS holds at least one female aid worker, and possibly more. The International Federation of the Red Cross confirmed three aid workers who disappeared in October 2013 remain missing, but would not comment on their identities or who kidnapped them.
Abductions and killings of aid workers are, unfortunately, nothing new, but the numbers are. According to Aidworkersecurity.org, at least 155 aid workers were killed in 2013, a 121% increase on 70 recorded killings the year before.
    Not all were victims of ISIS, a relatively new phenomenon given life by the chaos in embattled Syria. In fact, according to the same report, it is the Taliban who have historically kidnapped in the greatest numbers, in large part in Afghanistan.
    Here's the difference: ISIS is changing the game. The Taliban may have many reasons for abductions (flexing their muscles, negotiating prisoner releases), but they also have a record of frequent hostage release. The need for aid in a specific region and the level of the acceptance by the community matters, or mattered.