WASHINGTON, August 19, 2014 — American photojournalist James Foley, 40, was apparently beheaded by ISIS. A video of his last words and beheading were posted to the internet on YouTube Tuesday.
The intelligence community has not yet verified the authenticity of the video, which was taken down by YouTube, but if it turns out to be genuine, it is consistent with the Islamic State’s horrific barbarism. Christians, Shia Muslims, and others considered non-believers by the brutal Sunni organization have been slaughtered as brutally as Foley was across Syria and Iraq.
Foley appears in the video dressed in an orange tunic and pants, kneeling with his hands bound behind his back next to a hooded man dressed in black and holding a knife. He issues a statement that appears to be coerced, blaming the U.S. and President Obama for his murder:
“I call on my friends family and loved ones to rise up against my real killers, the U.S. government. For what will happen to me is only a result of their complacency and criminality.”
He calls on his brother, John, an officer in the U.S. Air Force, to consider his role in bombing Iraq and says that it was the bombing that signed his death certificate.
Foley’s murder was apparently in retaliation for U.S. airstrikes against Islamic State targets, which helped Kurdish fighters take the Mosul dam from ISIS. His killer speaks after Foley:
This is James Wright Foley, an American citizen of your country. As a government you have been at the forefront of the aggression towards the Islamic State. You have plotted against us and 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 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 aggression towards Muslims from all walks of life who have accepted the Islamic Caliphate as their leadership.
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.
At this point in the video, he kills Foley.
Following Foley’s murder, the camera shows another man, also dressed in orange, on his knees. A caption identifies him as American journalist Steven Soltoff as Foley’s killer says, “‘The life of this American citizen, Obama, depends on your next decision.”
Foley was taken captive in Syria in November, 2012, while working as a freelancer for the Global Post. Soltoff was taken last summer near the border between Turkey and Syria.
The first Obama Administration response to the video came from NSC Spokesperson Caitlin Hayden:
We have seen a video that purports to be the murder of U.S. citizen James Foley by ISIL. 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.