Diane and John Foley

Diane and John Foley of Rochester, parents of slain journalist James Foley, attend the 2014 Nackey S. Loeb First Amendment Awards presentation to their son; Donald Trump was the featured speaker.

MANCHESTER — A New Hampshire woman whose son was murdered by the Islamic State group in Syria five years ago said Sunday she was grateful to learn the leader of ISIS had died in a U.S. military raid.

Diane Foley, whose son, James, was a freelance journalist, also asked that President Donald Trump make the welfare of all remaining American hostages a priority.

Foley said the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi demonstrates the capabilities the U.S. military has when it comes to fighting terror.

“This is a big blow to ISIS and I applaud our government for continuing to pursue them because these terrorists are a huge international security risk,” Foley told the Union Leader on Sunday.

Foley, president and founder of the James W. Foley Legacy Foundation, said the family was contacted by the White House in advance of Trump’s announcement Sunday during an address to the nation. According to Trump, U.S. special forces were able to track al-Baghdadi based on recent intelligence about his whereabouts. The mission was carried out early Sunday in Syria.

“I am grateful to our President and brave troops for finding ISIS leader Al-Baghdadi,” Foley said in a statement released through the foundation. “I hope this will hinder the resurgence of terror groups and pray that captured ISIS fighters will be brought to trial and held accountable.”

Foley said the successful raid shows the United States’ ability to find “difficult, important people.”

“I implore the administration to use that same expertise in finding and bringing home innocent Americans who have been taken hostage,” Foley said.

She said she is hopeful the U.S. government will continue to pursue justice against two members of an ISIS cell that carried out the videotaped executions of James Foley and other western hostages. Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh, British ISIS fighters nicknamed “The Beatles,” were turned over to the custody of the U.S. military earlier this month after being held in a Kurdish-run prison in Syria.

“I would certainly hope that is a priority,” Foley said.

Foley said she is also appreciative that the White House contacted the family in advance of the announcement Sunday. Trump was the featured speaker five years ago when James Foley was honored posthumously with the Nackey S. Loeb First Amendment Award, given annually to New Hampshire organizations or residents who protect or exemplify the liberties listed in the First Amendment to the Constitution.

“They’ve really done their best to really keep in touch with families like our own to keep us ahead of the news, which isn’t easy to do because it happens so fast,” Foley said.

U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan, both Democrats from New Hampshire, also applauded the military strike against al-Baghdadi in statements released Sunday.

“The death of al-Baghdadi is a triumph for our nation’s anti-terrorism efforts and is a testament to the persistence and expertise of our military and intelligence services,” Shaheen said.

“Al-Baghdadi spread a heinous terrorist ideology which must continue to be snuffed out in Syria and around the world. Al-Baghdadi has the blood of Americans on his hands — including Granite Stater James Foley — and has finally been brought to justice. I congratulate President Trump, our allies who assisted in this effort, and, in particular, those who risked their lives in this raid.”

Hassan said ISIS has “inflicted untold evil across the globe,” including the murder of Foley and others.

“We must continue to bring its leaders to justice. We have made important strides to eliminate ISIS’ territory and degrade their ability to carry out attacks, but the threat they pose has not been eliminated, and we must remain vigilant and aggressive in our counter-terrorism efforts,” Hassan said.

U.S. Rep. Chris Pappas said the world is now a safer place.

“I am grateful for the dedicated work of our military and intelligence personnel who took out this terrorist leader,” Pappas said in a statement. “Thankfully, none were harmed in this heroic raid. I also commend the President for making this call and ordering the mission.”

Rep. Annie Kuster referred to the death of Foley in her statement, adding: “While this development is significant, the danger of ISIS remains very real and we must not rest until ISIS no longer poses a threat to the United States and our allies.

Monday, December 09, 2019