Mother of Beheaded American Journalist Urges ISIS to Spare Other Captives

August 19, 2014 - 6:24 PM
WH Says Intelligence Community Working to Determine Authenticity of Video

James Foley

American photojournalist James Foley went missing in Syria on Thanksgiving Day 2012. (Photo: freejamesfoley.org)

(CNSNews.com) – The mother of American journalist James Foley, believed to have been beheaded by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS/ISIL) terrorists, urged the group Tuesday to spare their other captives.

“We implore the kidnappers to spare the lives of the remaining hostages,” Diane Foley said in a statement. “Like Jim, they are innocents. They have no control over American government policy in Iraq, Syria or anywhere in the world.”

Diane Foley described her son as “an extraordinary son, brother, journalist and person” who she said “gave his life trying to expose the world to the suffering of the Syrian people.”

“Please respect our privacy in the days ahead as we mourn and cherish Jim.”

Foley, 40, a photojournalist with the GlobalPost news service, went missing in Syria on Thanksgiving Day 2012.

Committee to Protect Journalists chairman Sandra Mims Rowe said the murder “sickens all decent people.”

“Foley went to Syria to show the plight of the Syrian people, to bear witness to their fight, and in so doing to fight for press freedom,” she said. “Our hearts go out to his family, who had dedicated themselves to finding and freeing Jim.”

The CPJ says at least 69 journalists have been killed covering the Syrian conflict, and that it estimates that some 20 local and international journalists are currently missing there, with “many” believed to be held by ISIS.

Earlier ISIS posted online a video purportedly showing the murder of Foley, and threatening to kill another American journalist it holds unless the U.S. stops airstrikes against the group in Iraq.

“We have seen a video that purports to be the murder of U.S. citizen James Foley by ISIL,” National Security Council spokesperson Caitlin Hayden said in a statement.

“The intelligence community is working as quickly as possible to determine its authenticity. If genuine we are appalled by the brutal murder of an innocent American journalist and we express our deepest condolences to his family and friends. We will provide more information when it is available.”

The video clip uploaded on YouTube – and later taken down – begins with footage of President Obama ordering airstrikes against ISIS fighters in northern Iraq on August 7, with Arabic subtitles. (Since then, the U.S. has conducted a total of 68 airstrikes in the area, U.S. Central Command said in its most recent operational update.)

The video, which runs for about four-and-a-half minutes, then shows apparent footage of an airstrike, with the caption, “American Aggression Against the Islamic State.”

Then come the words, “A message to America (from the Islamic State).”

A masked man, dressed in black, carrying a knife and speaking with a hint of a London accent, is seen standing over a kneeling man dressed in an orange jumpsuit.

The kneeling man speaks out against the airstrikes, saying that they had “signed my death certificate.”

“I wish I had more time. I wish I could have the hope of freedom and seeing my family once again,” he says. “But that ship has sailed.”

“Today, your military air force is attacking us daily in Iraq,” the purported ISIS fighter says. “Your strikes have caused casualties amongst Muslims.”

“You are no longer fighting an insurgency; we are an Islamic army and a state that has been accepted by a large number of Muslims worldwide. So effectively, any aggression toward the Islamic State is an aggression towards Muslims from all walks of life who have accepted the Islamic caliphate as their leadership,” he says.

“So 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 your people.”

After gruesome imagery purporting to show the now dead man, another man dressed in orange appears in the video. A caption names him as Steven Joel Soltoff.

The man in black, holding him by his collar, says, “The life of this American citizen, Obama, depends on your next decision.”

Soltoff, a journalist who has contributed to Time magazine and The National Interest, went missing in Syria in August 2013.

Last October, GlobalPost quoted Foley’s father, John Foley, as saying, “We don’t know who has detained Jim. But we beg his captors to recognize that our son is an innocent, objective journalist who has done no harm to anyone and to please set him free.”

GlobalPost said then it had mounted an international investigation to try to ascertain where and by whom Foley was being held, with research carried out in Lebanon, Jordan and the vicinity of the Syria-Turkish border.

The State Department said late last year it was working through the Czech Republic, the U.S. protecting power in Syria, to try to get information on Foley’s welfare and whereabouts, as well as those of Austin Tice, a freelance reporter who has worked for McClatchy Newspapers and The Washington Post, who went missing in Syria in August 2012.

Spokeswoman Jen Psaki said at the time the department was in close contact with both families.

Foley, who reported for the GlobalPost earlier from Afghanistan and Libya, was held captive by pro-Gaddafi forces in Libya for 44 days in 2011.