New Hampshire-based journalist James Foley, kidnapped two years ago in Syria, was murdered Tuesday by Islamic State insurgents, who released a video showing his beheading and images of another U.S. journalist whose life they said depended on U.S. action in Iraq.
“We have never been prouder of our son, Jim,” Foley’s mother, Diane, said in a statement posted on the “Free James Foley” Facebook page late Tuesday night. “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.”
Foley, whose family lives in Rochester, had previously been held captive for 44 days in Libya in 2011.The video, titled “A Message To America,” was posted on social media sites.
“His murder was a cowardly act of terrorism and underscores the threat that ISIL poses to the freedoms we hold dear,” U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen said in a statement. “My thoughts are with the Foley family and everyone who knew and loved James, both in New Hampshire and around the world.”
“I remember Jim Foley as a child and I will not allow evil to change the way I remember him,” U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter wrote. “I will always choose to remember his goodness, his life and his great family.”
“Our hearts are broken for the Foley family,” U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte said in a statement. “James was an innocent civilian who was bravely performing his job as a journalist. This barbarous and heinous act shocks the conscience and underscores the truly evil nature of the terrorists we confront, who must be defeated. My thoughts and prayers are with James Foley’s family at this extremely difficult time.”
Congresswoman Ann Kuster wrote: “Words cannot express the horror of this vile act, which was committed by truly evil individuals who must be brought to justice.”
Foley had been working as a freelance journalist in the Middle East — including in Afghanistan — for five years when he was kidnapped in November 2012 while working as a videographer for Agence France-Presse near the city of Idlib, Syria. At the time, he was 39.
Steven Sotloff, a freelance journalist who has worked for Time, appeared at the end of the video. He disappeared in northern Syria while he was reporting in July 2013.
The video was posted after the United States resumed air strikes in Iraq for the first time since the end of the U.S. occupation in 2011.
The video opened with a clip of U.S. President Barack Obama saying he had authorized strikes in Iraq. “Obama authorizes military operations against the Islamic State effectively placing America upon a slippery slope toward a new war front against Muslims,” words appear in English and Arabic on the screen.
It showed black and white aerial footage of air strikes with text saying “American aggression against the Islamic State.”
A person identified as James Foley and wearing an orange outfit is seen kneeling in the desert as a man in black dress with a black mask stands beside him, holding a knife.
“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,” the kneeling man says.
“My message to my beloved parents: save me some dignity and don’t accept any meager compensation for my death from the same people who effectively hammered the last nail in my coffin with their recent aerial campaign in Iraq.”
In a slightly quivering voice, the man then called on a brother, John, who he said serves in the U.S. Air Force, to “think about what you are doing.”
“Think about who made the decision to bomb Iraq recently and kill those people, whoever they may have been,” he continued. “I died that day, John, when your colleagues dropped the bomb on those people. They signed my death certificate.”
The black-clad fighter, a knife gripped in one hand, then warned in slightly accented English that more Americans would be killed if there were more American attacks on the caliphate declared by the group on the huge swaths of northern Iraq and eastern Syria that it has overrun.
After the beheading, words on the side of the screen say “Steven Joel Sotloff” as another prisoner in an orange jumpsuit is shown.
“The life of this American citizen, Obama, depends on your next decision,” the masked man says.
Kelly Foley sent a Tweet last night imploring people not to watch the video: “Please honor James Foley and respect my family’s privacy. Don’t watch the video. Don’t share it. That’s not how life should be.”
Diane Foley wrote on Facebook: “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.”
Gov. Maggie Hassan called Foley “a talented and fearless photojournalist.”
“The appalling actions of ISIS are a crime against humanity and the values that we all hold dear,” she said in a statement. “I join all Granite Staters and people around the world in mourning the tragic loss of James Foley, and our thoughts and prayers are with his family and loved ones.”
Information from Reuters was used in this report.