President Barack Obama said Wednesday that the “the entire world is appalled” by the murder of U.S. journalist James Foley.
A video surfaced Tuesday showing a man beheading Foley, who disappeared on November 22, 2012, in northwest Syria, near the border with Turkey. The militant group seeking an Islamic caliphate stretching from Iraq into Syria have claimed credit and U.S. intelligence said Wednesday that the video is real.
CNN is not showing the video.
The video shows an executioner and features an English speaker with an accent that sounds British. The footage shows another U.S. journalist believed to be Steven Sotloff, who was kidnapped at the Syria-Turkey border in 2013. Sotloff’s life, the executioner says, depends on what Obama does next.
Obama spoke briefly in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, saying that Foley’s life stands in stark contrast to that of his killers. He slammed ISIS, saying the militants speak for no religion and that no faith teaches others to massacre innocents as ISIS does.
“People like this ultimately fail” because the future is won by those who build and not destroy, Obama said.
A horrific video
In the video posted Tuesday on YouTube, Foley is seen kneeling next to a man dressed in black. Foley reads a message, presumably scripted by his captors, that his “real killer” is America.
“I wish I had more time. I wish I could have the hope for freedom to see my family once again,” he can be heard saying in the video.
He is then shown being beheaded.
ISIS has carried out executions, including beheadings and other horrific acts against people in Iraq as the group led a quick and intense advance in the country. ISIS — which refers to itself as the Islamic State — has videotaped executions and posted them online.
U.S. and British counterterrorism analysts are examining every frame and piece of audio of the video for clues about where it took place and who the executioner is, U.S. officials told CNN. The voice in the video seems to have a British accent so they’re trying to match any individuals known to the British government who may have gone to Syria to fight in that nation’s civil war.
The analysts are looking at clothing, climate, terrain, language and wording and whether there are any National Security Agency or UK phone intercepts matching the voice, officials said Wednesday.
‘They are innocents’
When he vanished in 2012, Foley was reportedly forced into a vehicle by gunmen. At that time, he was working for the U.S.-based online news outlet GlobalPost.
On Tuesday, Foley’s mother, Diane, took to social media with an emotional statement to praise and mourn her son.
“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,” she said in a post on the Free James Foley Facebook page.
“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.”
Another American in video
Sotloff is a contributor to Time and Foreign Policy magazines.
The Committee to Protect Journalists estimates there are about 20 journalists missing in Syria, many of them held by ISIS.
Among them is American Austin Tice, a freelance journalist who was contributing articles to The Washington Post. Tice disappeared in Syria in August 2012. There has been no word of from him since his abduction.
The CEO of the Associated Press said in a statement that the news service is “outraged” by Foley’s killing and “condemns the taking of any journalist’s life.”
“We believe those who kill journalists or hold them hostage should be brought to justice,” Gary Pruitt said. “Further, we believe the assassination of a journalist in wartime should be considered an international crime of war. The murder of a journalist with impunity is a threat to a free press and democracy around the world.”
‘We ask for your prayers’
As a freelancer, Foley picked up work for a number of major media outlets, including Agence France-Presse and GlobalPost.
“On behalf of John and Diane Foley, and also GlobalPost, we deeply appreciate all of the messages of sympathy and support that have poured in since the news of Jim’s possible execution first broke,” Philip Balboni, GlobalPost CEO and co-founder, said in a published statement, referring to James Foley’s parents.
“We have been informed that the FBI is in the process of evaluating the video posted by the Islamic State to determine if it is authentic. Until we have that determination, we will not be in a position to make any further statement. We ask for your prayers for Jim and his family.”
Foley had previously been taken captive in Libya. He was detained there in April 2011 along with three other reporters and released six weeks later.
Afterward, he said that what saddened him most was knowing that he was causing his family to worry.
Fair, curious and popular
Foley grew up in New Hampshire and graduated from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism in 2008.
Like some other young journalists working after the September 11 terror attacks, Foley was drawn to Iraq, Afghanistan and other areas of conflict.
Friends described Foley as fair, curious and impressively even-tempered.
“Everybody, everywhere, takes a liking to Jim as soon as they meet him,” journalist Clare Morgana Gillis wrote in a blog post about him in May 2013, six months after he disappeared in Syria.
“Men like him for his good humor and tendency to address everyone as ‘bro’ or ‘homie’ or ‘dude’ after the first handshake. Women like him for his broad smile, broad shoulders, and because, well, women just like him.”
‘Our hearts are broken’
People in Foley’s hometown of Rochester, New Hampshire, expressed shock and sadness at the news.
“This is a tragedy which is beyond imagining. There are no words to describe this kind of inhumanity,” the Rev. Paul Gousse of the Holy Rosary Church told CNN affiliate WMUR.
“You just feel sad,” Sully Harte, a neighbor, told the local broadcaster. “You just hope the family can grieve and deal with it because it’s one of those things that you can’t control at all.”
Sen. Kelly Ayotte, Republican of New Hampshire, said in a statement that “our hearts are broken for the Foley family.”
“James was an innocent civilian who was bravely performing his job as a journalist,” Ayotte said. “This barbaric and heinous act shocks the conscience and highlights the truly evil nature of the terrorists we confront, who must be defeated.”
Previous brutal killings of Americans
The video of Foley was released as ISIS is being targeted by American airstrikes ordered by Obama.
“I think they may have been surprised and are doing the best they can to retaliate,” former CIA director R. James Woolsey, Jr. told CNN.
Foley’s killing recalled the murder of Daniel Pearl, The Wall Street Journal correspondent who was kidnapped while reporting in Pakistan in January 2002. His killing was captured on video and posted on line by al Qaeda.
Pearl’s mother, Ruth Pearl, responded to Foley’s death with a tweet issued from the Daniel Pearl Foundation account that reads, “Our hearts go out to the family of journalist James Foley. We know the horror they are going through.”
Foley’s death also harkened to the videotaped beheadings of Americans Nicholas Berg, Eugene Armstrong and Jack Hensley carried out by al Qaeda during the height of the Iraq War.