Security Council condemns execution of U.S. journalist James Foley
(CNN) — The United Nations on Friday condemned the beheading of American journalist James Foley by his ISIS captors as “heinous and cowardly” and said the execution shows the increasing danger to journalists reporting in Syria.
The execution video, posted Tuesday to YouTube, also showed another U.S. journalist, identified as Steven Sotloff, with an ISIS militant warning that the captive will be killed if the United States does not end its military operations in Iraq.
In the video, Foley is seen kneeling next to a man dressed in black. Foley reads a message, presumably scripted by his captors, that his “real killer” is America. “I wish I had more time. I wish I could have the hope for freedom to see my family once again,” he can be heard saying.
“This incident is a tragic reminder of the increasing dangers journalists face every day in Syria. It also once again demonstrates the brutality of (ISIS), which is responsible for thousands of abuses against the Syrian and Iraqi people,” the U.N. Security Council said in a statement.
The Security Council expressed its “deep sympathy and condolences” to families of Foley and other victims and said ISIS “must be defeated and that the intolerance, violence and hatred it espouses must be stamped out.”
Foley’s brother said in an interview with Yahoo News on Friday that the U.S. government could have done more to gain the release of his brother and other American hostages from the Islamic militant group.
“There’s more that could have been done directly on Jim’s behalf,” Michael Foley, 38, told Yahoo Global News Anchor Katie Couric. “I really, really hope that Jim’s death pushes us to take another look at our approach to terrorist and hostage negotiation.”
U.S. special operations units were sent into Syria this summer to rescue Foley and other hostages held by Islamic militants, a U.S. official told CNN. Several dozen of the most elite U.S. commandos from units like Delta Force and Navy SEAL Team 6 flew in aboard helicopters but couldn’t find the hostages, including Foley.
ISIS taunted Foley’s family in an e-mail a week ago, saying he would be killed.
“The message was vitriolic and filled with rage against the United States. It was deadly serious,” said Philip Balboni, CEO of the online publication GlobalPost, which hired Foley as a freelancer.
Balboni told the Wall Street Journal that the captors originally demanded a ransom sum of 100 million euros, or about $132.5 million, from Foley’s family and GlobalPost.
Ben Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser, told reporters in Washington that the United States has “done everything that we can possibly do to try to bring home our hostages” but that government was adamant against paying ransom to terrorist organizations.
“As a matter of policy, we do not provide ransom or any funding for terrorist organizations,” he said. “We feel very strongly that it is not the right policy for governments to support the payment of ransom to terrorist organizations. In the long run, what that does is, it provides additional funding to these terrorist organizations, which allows them to expand their operations.”
Thousands of Syrians and Iraqis have been slain by ISIS militants as the Sunni extremist group seeks to build an Islamic caliphate stretching across a swath of territory. But the execution of Western captives carries greater shock value and represents a powerful propaganda tool for the group.
Foley disappeared on November 22, 2012, in northwest Syria, near the border with Turkey. He was reportedly forced into a vehicle by gunmen; he was not heard from again. At the time of his disappearance, he was working for the U.S.-based online news outlet GlobalPost.
On Tuesday, Foley’s mother, Diane, took to social media with an emotional statement to praise and mourn her son.
“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,” she said in a post on the Free James Foley Facebook page.
Sotloff, who was kidnapped at the Syria-Turkey border in 2013, is a contributor to Time and Foreign Policy magazines.
The Committee to Protect Journalists estimates there are about 20 journalists missing in Syria, many of them held by ISIS.
Among them is American Austin Tice, a freelance journalist who was contributing articles to The Washington Post. Tice disappeared in Syria in August 2012. There has been no word of from him since his abduction.
The ISIS threat has American officials leaving open the possibility of airstrikes against ISIS fighters in Syria, saying that it was not enough to just hit the extremist group in Iraq.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey both made clear Thursday that defeating Islamic State jihadists rampaging through northern Iraq would require going after them in neighboring Syria.
Rhodes on Friday said the administration was looking at options beyond the current airstrikes in Iraq against the Sunni extremists.
“If we see plotting against Americans, see a threat to the United States emanating from anywhere, we stand ready to take action against that threat,” Rhodes told reporters. “… We’re actively considering what’s going to be necessary to deal with that threat, and we’re not going to be restricted by borders.”