Islamic State militants release video 'beheading' US reporter
Islamic State militants posted a video today that purported to show the beheading of American journalist James Foley in revenge for US air strikes against the insurgents in Iraq.
The video, titled "A Message To America," also showed images of another US journalist, Steven Sotloff, whose life Islamic State said depended on how the United States acts in Iraq.
The gruesome video presented President Barack Obama with bleak options that could define America’s involvement in Iraq and the public reaction to it, potentially dragging him further into a conflict he built much of his presidency on ending.
Obama held back from making a public statement about the beheading until the video could be formally authenticated.
"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," White House National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in a statement.
Other political leaders were swift to react.
British Prime Minister David Cameron interrupted his holiday to return to London to lead the hunt to identify the man shown killing Foley, who spoke on the video with a British accent.
Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said he was not surprised to hear the British accent and that large numbers of British nationals were fighting in Iraq and Syria.
"Our intelligence services will be looking very carefully on both sides of the Atlantic at this video to establish its authenticity, to try to identify the individual concerned and then we will work together to try to locate him," Hammond told Sky news.
French President Francois Hollande called for an international conference to discuss how to tackle Islamic State.
Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari urged the world to back his country against Islamic State, which he described as a threat to the world, not just to the minority ethnic groups whose members it has killed in Iraq.
Germany and Italy said they were ready to send arms to bolster the military capabilities of Iraqi Kurds fighting Islamic State in northern Iraq.
The video's grisly message was unambiguous, warning of greater retaliation to come against Americans following nearly two weeks of US air strikes that have pounded militant positions and halted the advance of Islamic State, which until this month had captured a third of Iraq with little resistance.
Foley, 40, was kidnapped by armed men on Nov. 22, 2012, in northern Syria while on his way to the Turkish border, according to GlobalPost, a Boston-based online publication where Foley had worked as a freelancer. He had reported in the Middle East for five years and had been kidnapped and released in Libya.
Sotloff, who appeared at the end of the video, went missing in northern Syria while reporting in July 2013. He has written for TIME among other news organizations.
On Facebook, Foley's mother Diane Foley 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.
"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."
The video was posted after the United States resumed air strikes in Iraq this month for the first time since the end of the US occupation in 2011.