James Foley, an American journalist who went missing in Syria more than a year ago, has been executed by the Islamic State, a militant group formerly known as ISIS.
A video and photos of Foley emerged on Tuesday. The video — entitled “A Message to #America (from the #IslamicState)” — identified a man on his knees as “James Wright Foley,” and showed his beheading.
“This is James Wright Foley, an American citizen of your country,” an Islamic State militant says in the video. “As a government, you have been at the forefront of the aggression towards the Islamic State. You have plotted against us and have gone far out of your way to find reasons to interfere in our affairs. Today, your military air force is attacking us daily in Iraq, your strikes have caused casualties among Muslims.”
Foley, a 40-year-old journalist from Rochester, New Hampshire, went missing in northern Syria while freelancing for Agence France-Presse and the Boston-based media company GlobalPost. The car he was riding in was stopped by four militants in a contested battle zone that both Sunni rebel fighters and government forces were trying to control. He had not been heard from since.
The video also shows another man on his knees who is identified as American journalist Steven Sotloff. The Islamic State member says that Sotloff’s future “depends” on President Obama’s “next decision.” Sotloff, a freelance journalist for Time, the National Interest and MediaLine, went missing in Syria in August 2013 after being kidnapped near the Syrian-Turkish border.
Message from James Foley’s mother, Diane Foley (via Facebook):
We have never been prouder of our son Jim. He gave his life trying to expose the world to the suffering of the Syrian people.
We implore the kidnappers to spare the lives of the remaining hostages. Like Jim, they are innocents. They have no control over American government policy in Iraq, Syria or anywhere in the world.
We thank Jim for all the joy he gave us. He was an extraordinary son, brother, journalist and person. Please respect our privacy in the days ahead as we mourn and cherish Jim.
One U.S. official said the video appeared to be authentic, and two other U.S. officials said the victim was Foley. All three officials spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the killing by name.
The beheading marks the first time the Islamic State has killed an American citizen since the Syrian conflict broke out in March 2011.
The group is the heir apparent of the militancy known as Al-Qaeda in Iraq, which beheaded many of its victims, including American businessman Nicholas Berg in 2004.
In seeking to impose its harsh interpretation of Islamic law in the lands it is trying to control, the extremists have slain soldiers and civilians alike in horrifying executions — including mounting the decapitated heads of some of its victims on spikes.
U.S. Special Operations forces staged an unsuccessful operation this summer to rescue photojournalist James Foley and other Americans being held in Syria by Islamic State militants, according to senior Obama administration officials authorized by the White House to brief a small group of reporters on condition of anonymity.
The attempt, in which at least one U.S. serviceman was injured, came after at least six Western hostages freed by the militants had been debriefed by U.S. intelligence.
“Unfortunately,” the official said, “it was not ultimately successful because the hostages were not present…at the site of the operation.”
The failed operation “was conducted by a joint force with virtually every service represented,” a second official said, including “special operators and aircraft both rotary and fixed wing,” with surveillance aircraft overhead.
This official said that there were a “good number” of militant casualties at the site, but that one U.S. service member received a “minor injury when one aircraft did take some fire.”
Other current and former U.S. officials who were not part of the briefing told The Washington Post that Foley and others had been at the site, in eastern Syria, but apparently had been moved before the rescue attempt.
They said that U.S. forces landed specially modified Black Hawk helicopters at the site of the raid, where they came under heavy fire, according to a former U.S. intelligence official.
The heavily armed helicopters were flown by the Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, which works with both the Army’s Delta Force and Navy SEAL commandos. The regiment is known as the “Night Stalkers.”