December 18, 2014
Britain reveals close to identifying Foley beheading suspect
Britain is close to identifying a suspected British national shown beheading US journalist James Foley in a video released by Islamic State militants last week, the British ambassador to the United States said.
The horrific video showing the killing of Foley last week, together with a threat to kill another American journalist being held hostage, Steven Sotloff, inspired widespread revulsion in the West and a desire to hunt down the killer.
The masked knifeman shown in the video spoke English with a London accent and security services have launched a major attempt to find out who he is by analysing the video and seeking to identify him from among the estimated 500 Britons believed to have gone to join the jihadists in Iraq and Syria.
Britain's ambassador to the United States, Peter Westmacott, told CNN's "State of the Union" programme that Britain was putting a great deal of resource into identifying the suspect, including voice-recognition technology.
He said he could not give more details, but added: "I do know from my colleagues at home that we are close."
Former hostages of Islamic State have suggested that the man in the video is one of a group of British Islamists assigned to guard foreign prisoners. They have been dubbed John, Paul and Ringo, of the Beatles, because of their British accents, and British media say the suspect is "jihadi John".
The British government said it had appointed its senior defence adviser for the Middle East as a security envoy to the Iraqi Kurdistan to help Kurdish and Iraqi efforts to defeat Islamic State.
Lieutenant General Sir Simon Mayall goes to Baghdad and Arbil next week.
The government also said it would supply non-lethal equipment to Kurdish forces in the coming days, including night vision equipment and body armour.