The militant group Islamic State has released a grisly video on social media showing one of its members beheading American journalist James Foley somewhere in Syria or Iraq, saying in the five-minute clip titled “A Message to America,” that another U.S. journalist, Steven Sotloff, would meet a similar fate if President Barack Obama did not halt his air strikes against IS in Iraq.
Following the White House’s confirmation that the video was authentic, Mr. Obama said on Wednesday, “One thing we can all agree on is a group like ISIL has no place in the 21st century,” and that the entire world was “appalled by the brutal murder of Jim Foley.”
Yet he did not address the IS demand U.S. airstrikes in Iraq be halted, and he went on to say, “We will do everything we can to protect our people and the timeless values they stand for.”
The President appeared emotional when he delivered the statement from Martha's Vineyard, saying, “No just God would stand for what they did yesterday and what they do every single day, adding that he was “heartbroken,” by Foley's death.
In the video, Foley, who disappeared on November 22, 2012, in Syria and was thought to have been captured by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, is seen in an orange jumpsuit of the kind worn by inmates at the U.S. prison of Guantanamo Bay, kneeling beside a masked IS militant wielding a knife.
After he makes a short, likely scripted, statement denouncing the U.S. government as “my real killers,” the British-accented militant is seen decapitating Foley, and then a graphic still photograph of Foley’s body and head is shown.
The militant, clad in black, is also seen issuing a warning to the U.S. administration saying, “You're no longer fighting an insurgency… We are an Islamic army, an estate that has been accepted by a number of Muslims worldwide. So, effectively, any aggression towards the Islamic State is an aggression towards Muslims of all walks of life who have accepted the Islamic Caliphate as their leadership.”
He then warns that any attempt “by you, Obama,” to deny the Muslims their rights of living in safety under the Islamic Caliphate, will result in the bloodshed of Americans, even as he holds another orange-clad prisoner, apparently Sotloff, by the nape of the neck.
Foley’s family issued a statement confirming his death, and his mother Diane said, “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,” adding that she implored the kidnappers to spare the lives of the remaining hostages who, like Foley, were innocents and “have no control over American government policy in Iraq, Syria or anywhere in the world.”
The Foley family also called on the public and media to respect their privacy, a concern that appeared to resonate in social media with YouTube and Twitter taking down all links to the full video within minutes of it being published and suspending numerous accounts that posted it.
The IS video comes even as U.S. air strikes appeared to succeed in beating back IS fighters in some parts of northern Iraq, including near the Mosul dam, and earlier slowing the onslaught of the militants against the minority Yazidi group and Kurdish forces near Erbil.
While the Obama administration has thus far been clear that it would avoid a more intensive involvement against the IS insurgency in Iraq and Syria and has eschewed calls to put combat troops on the ground there, it is unclear what options the White House has to prevent IS from similarly executing Sotloff.