News / USA

Pentagon: US Special Forces Tried to Rescue Journalist Who Was Beheaded

Obama Condemns Journalist Killing, Vows Justicei
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Luis Ramirez
August 20, 2014 11:23 PM
President Barack Obama has condemned the killing of American journalist James Foley and warned the United States will see that justice is done. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Related video report by Luis Ramirez

Luis Ramirez

U.S. military forces unsuccessfully tried to rescue a number of American hostages being held in Syria by Islamic extremists, the U.S. Defense Department said Wednesday. News reports said those hostages included the freelance journalist James Foley, whose beheading was shown in a video released Tuesday.

The Pentagon gave few details of the operation, declining to say when and where specifically in Syria it took place, or how many U.S. forces were involved.

The Washington Post, The Associated Press and other media said the operation took place earlier this summer.

“The United States attempted a rescue operation recently to free a number of American hostages held in Syria by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). This operation involved air and ground components and was focused on a particular captor network within ISIL,” the statement said. "Unfortunately, the mission was not successful because the hostages were not present at the targeted location."

White House officials told The New York Times that Special Forces commandos exchanged fire with militants, and one American was slightly wounded when one of the U.S. aircraft came under fire.

The grisly beheading of James Foley, a freelance journalist who had been held captive since disappearing in Syria in 2012, prompted wide outrage, including condemnation from President Barack Obama who called the Islamic State militant group that took credit for the execution a spreading "cancer" that must be eradicated.

"The entire world is appalled by the brutal murder of James Foley," Obama said earlier Wednesday. The United States "will continue to do what we must do to protect our people."

U.S. intelligence officials on Wednesday confirmed the authenticity of the video, which was released Tuesday and shows Foley being put to death. It also showed a second American journalist being held hostage, Steven Joel Sotloff, and included militants' threats to kill him. 

President Obama commenting on the beheading of American journalist James Foley.President Obama commenting on the beheading of American journalist James Foley.
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President Obama commenting on the beheading of American journalist James Foley.
President Obama commenting on the beheading of American journalist James Foley.

The Sunni extremist group claimed it had killed Foley in retaliation for U.S. airstrikes targeting the group’s fighters in northern Iraq. The strikes, which began Aug. 8, helped rescue thousands of Yazidi refugees trapped on Mount Sinjar and helped Iraqis regain control of the country's main dam, near Mosul. In the hours after the video's release, the U.S. said it carried out nearly a dozen more airstrikes near the dam.

The 40-year-old Foley disappeared November 22, 2012, after being abducted in Syria by unidentified gunmen. He had reported in the Middle East for five years, for organizations including GlobalPost, and previously had spent six weeks in captivity in Libya.

Watch related video report by Henry Ridgwell:

Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outragei
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Henry Ridgwell
August 20, 2014 7:41 PM
U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.

 

It was not immediately clear where or when the execution took place.

Obama, in a brief televised appearance from the Massachusetts island of Martha's Vineyard, said he had telephoned Foley's family members in New Hampshire to say "we are all heartbroken at their loss."

The Islamic State militants, Obama said, "have rampaged" across swaths of Syria and Iraq.

"They abduct women and children and subject them to rape and torture and slavery,” he said.

'Extract This Cancer'

Obama also said the fighters had murdered people of all faiths, including Muslims. He called for a common effort – in Iraq, the Middle East region and elsewhere – "to extract this cancer so it does not spread."

French President Francois Hollande told Le Monde newspaper there should be a "global strategy" to counter the Islamic group, which he called well-structured, well-financed and well-armed with sophisticated weapons.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the killing as "an abominable crime."

Foley's killing has also drawn a sharp response in Britain, where counterterrorism police were trying to identify the journalist's killer. In the video, he spoke with a British accent.

Family Pays Tribute

The Foley family implored the kidnappers to spare the lives of other hostages, including Sotloff: "Like Jim, they are innocents. They have no control over American government policy in Iraq, Syria or anywhere in the world.''

Foley “gave his life trying to expose the world to the suffering of the Syrian people," said a Facebook statement attributed to his mother Diane Tuesday.

The Islamic State holds more hostages, including three American nationals and at least two British nationals, as well as others, according to the International Center for the Study of Radicalization at King’s College, in London. 

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said the U.S. is aware of other Americans being held in Syria and that an estimated 12,000 foreign fighters have joined the conflicts in Iraq and Syria.

'Message to America'

In the video, titled "Message to America," Foley is shown wearing an orange, prison-style jumpsuit and kneeling in the desert as a masked man in black standing beside him holds a knife. The video was initially posted to YouTube, before being taken down late Tuesday by the video-sharing service.

“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 hit the last nail in my coffin with their recent aerial campaign in Iraq," he says.

The masked man denounces the U.S. government, saying it is "at the forefront of aggression toward the Islamic State" and he accuses the United States of interfering in its affairs.

"Today, your military air force is attacking us daily. In Iraq, your strikes have caused casualties amongst Muslims," the man says. "You are no longer fighting an insurgency. We are an Islamic army and state that has been accepted by a large number of Muslims from all walks of life, who have accepted the caliphate as their leadership."

The video then shows the man beginning to cut Foley’s neck before fading away and then finally showing Foley’s headless body.

Sotloff appears near the end of the nearly five-minute video. The man suggests that his fate rests with Obama.

More reaction on Foley

"This is an absolutely tragic and senseless killing of an innocent man who was just doing his job," Voice of America Director David Ensor said. "It isn't going to make any difference. It won't affect U.S. policy, in my view, it isn't going to make American journalist organizations stop covering the news."

IS and anyone else who is holding innocent prisoners – journalists or others – should free them immediately, Ensor said. "They will gain nothing from taking another innocent life.”

VOA constantly assesses the risks its journalists face while covering different news stories, he said.

"We have a lot of respect for our journalists and their judgment," he said. Risks are inevitable and "unfortunately, the world is a dangerous place."

Marquette University, where Foley graduated in 1996, said Foley "had a heart for social justice and used his immense talents to tell the difficult stories in the hopes that they might make a difference in the world."

Foley, who had also been held in Libya by forces loyal to Col. Moammar Gadhafi during the 2011 uprising, had worked for Agence France-Presse and the Boston-based media outlet GlobalPost. His last dispatch from Syria, in October 2012, for GlobalPost detailed the growing frustration with the war among Aleppo’s population.

Jonathan Adelman, associate professor at the University of Denver's Korbel School of International Studies, said the execution was a response by IS to its recent battlefield setbacks.

"To say that ‘OK, we’re not even going to concede that we can ever lose because we’re, quote, infallible, but we’re now going to go to the heart of the beast, we’re going to go straight at the president of the United States and say do you want us to slaughter this person?’” he said. “And, it is incredibly appalling in the 21st century that any nation, any people, would act like this.”

Syria: Most Dangerous Places in the World For Journalists

Syria is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for reporters, according to the U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists: at least 69 have been killed, more than 80 kidnapped and 20 others currently missing. About 20 journalists still are missing in Syria, and many are believed to be held by militants, according to the organization.

"Syria is "an incredibly important conflict that they are literally risking their lives for," CPJ advocacy director Courtney Radsch told VOA.

"Anytime that non-state actors are kidnapping journalists and using them as pawns in a broader geopolitical game, that's incredibly dangerous," Radsch said. "Journalists are there as innocent, objective bystanders. They are seeking to report on what's happening so that the world can know.”

Freelance journalists covering conflicts like that in Syria often work with little protection or resources. Radsch said news organization should make sure their journalists are safe, whether they are staff or freelancers

"I think it's important that news organizations are paying the right wage so that we encourage freelancers to do the training, to get the security, take the precautions that are needed,” she said.

Shiraz Maher, at the King's College center, said foreign and British jihadists in particular fighting for the Islamic State have been responsible for some of the worst atrocities.

"Earlier this year, British foreign fighters were involved with the execution of prisoners of war, members of the Syrian army that they had captured. At the end of last year, we had British suicide bombers in Aleppo,” Maher said.
VOA's Henry Ridgwell contributed to this report from London, with Victor Beattie, Sharon Behn and Mike Eckel from Washington. Additional information was provided by Reuters.

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by: Abraham Yeshuratnam from: India
August 22, 2014 4:56 AM
This dangerous and explosive situation has occurred because Obama kept quiet in the initial stages of Syrian crisis. The crisis in Syria was prompted by protests in mid-March 2011 calling for the release of political prisoners. National security forces responded to widespread, initially peaceful demonstrations with brutal violence. From summer 2011 onward, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad refused to halt attacks and implement the meaningful reforms demanded by protesters. In July 2011, accounts emerged from witnesses, victims, the media, and civil society that government forces had subjected civilians to arbitrary detention, torture, and the deployment and use of heavy artillery.
Obama was not prepared to halt Assad's bloodbath in 2011 which has now evolved into the birth of ISIS and the danger to the whole world. Foley was brutally slaughtered and ISIS is now rampaging across Iraq. If only Obama had taken action in 2011 as Cameron and Sarkozy did in Libya which led to the fall of Qadaffi the present danger could have been averted.


by: tom smith from: canada
August 21, 2014 7:05 AM
Destroy the extremists


by: Charlie Brown
August 21, 2014 12:58 AM
This barbaric outrage must not be allowed to escape the focus and attention of world leaders to action it appropriately. For too long, such organizations and Governments throughout the world have been able to get away with such actions including genocide and the United Nations and the Hague have waivered and this in turn has enabled such barbarity, Europe, the Middle East and Africa are such examples.


by: MUSTAFA from: INDIA
August 20, 2014 10:38 PM
I have been writing in VOA on Syria conflict for the last Three Years. I have been suggesting to sponsor of those terrorist group, please God sake do not support terrorist group in Syria, this will create much more problem after some time. But sorry to say no body listen my sincere and honest suggestion, and they continue to Finance, Training and even health services in Israel for these terrorist. What is going on today in Iraq and Syria, I am sorry to say these sponsors are responsible namely USA, EU, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, Jordon and Kuwait. All these countries were supplying arms and amunisation in the name of Freedom Fighters in Syria. This is the same group came from Syria to Iraq after killing, beheading more then 200,000/= helpless and poor Syrians. When they were crying for help no body from these sponsors came to rescue them, rather they supplied arms to terrorist to kill in brute way poor Syrians.
Now USA must learn from their Past MISTAKESSSSS, and eliminate these human killersssss from this earth, who feeded by USA because USA hate ASSAD & CO.
USA must warn Saudi Arabia, to stop funding and training in Saudi soil.


by: Anonymous
August 20, 2014 8:13 PM
So amazing that, we have some Briton and American nationals in the militia!
What do their (USA and Britain) counterterrorisim intelligency do in fighting down the recruitment of this militia men from their states?


by: deanna from: london england
August 20, 2014 6:32 PM
Why isn't Israel getting the support it deserves? I don't understand. They are trying to eradicate Hamas who is a part of the network that is terrorising the world and should get all the arms etc they need. What do US and UK do? They stop supplying them. How stupid are these governments! I think we all know Obama has an agenda and UK leaders are just weak and pathetic. We had a soldier beheaded on the streets of London for G-d sake! When are they going to wake up and get rid of these barbarians once and for all. Israel has the means to do it, lets hope our governments act before that happens, Shame on them all

In Response

by: Sunray
August 21, 2014 10:15 AM
Deanna, in all probability that UK incident was the precursor. Regrettably no death penalty but free "board and lodging" provided. Absolutely shocking but that is the reality in the UK. Several issues arise, apart from the legal and immigration policies, one of which is public security and no doubt receiving the attention it deserves. Israel however will provide and protect its citizens and do what is right for Israel, don't fret this issue.


by: Milton Beeffart from: USA
August 20, 2014 5:27 PM
The alleged beheading is now dominating the establishment news cycle, overshadowing events in Ferguson, Missouri. The media invariably engages in wall-to-wall coverage when a journalist is killed, especially in such a sensational and grotesque manner.

The alleged murder will undoubtedly be exploited by the state as it ramps up re-intervention in Iraq under the humanitarian banner. In the meantime, it is the responsibility of the corporate media to produce public outrage and further demonize IS, a paramilitary group created by the U.S. and its Gulf Emirate associates and trained by the United States military in Jordan.

“The extremists’ immediate goal was to use the shocking images to intimidate the Obama administration into halting U.S. airstrikes on ISIS strongholds in Iraq,” reports the International Business Times.

In fact, as ISIS undoubtedly knows, the exact opposite will occur – the United States and its partners will step up their bombing campaign, using the video as a convenient propaganda tool and capitalizing on popular outrage over the group.

The New York Post, owned by News Corp. magnate Rupert Murdoch, mustered its editorial board this morning and declared the “time for games is over” and the “horrific wake-up call” of Foley’s alleged murder demands military retaliation. “With American lives now being taken and even more at risk, America is now directly involved. No more playing footsie with butchers.”

Johan Galtung, a Norwegian sociologist and the principal founder of the discipline of peace and conflict studies, has described how the establishment media exploits violence to propagandize the foreign policy objectives of the state.

Manicheanism, the art of portraying one side as brutal and evil while the other is viewed as a chaste and innocent victim, plays a dominant role in war propaganda. This is the process we are now witnessing in regard to the alleged murder of James Foley.

The establishment media will continue to employ this tactic, along with decontextualizing the violence – dwelling on irrational emotional responses while ignoring the underlying reasons for violence and, in the case of ISIS, omitting the fact the group and its mercurial leader are largely a creation of U.S. intelligence and its partners.

In Response

by: Sherman D. Oaks from: Los Angeles
August 20, 2014 10:00 PM
Very well stated!


by: Democractic from: India
August 20, 2014 2:29 PM
What are you Mr Obama? Just drop the N bomb on these terror group

In Response

by: Shub from: Earth
August 20, 2014 6:09 PM
More bombs. Wow. That's the trouble with these bomb trigger junkies, they forgot to think.


by: Godwin from: Nigeria
August 20, 2014 2:27 PM
I do not know how this seems in the eyes of the UN Human rights group, the Arab League especially the Saudi Arabian foreign ministry, the EU and other agencies. Does it look like something to behold? I am surprised that there is no public outcry or threat of isolation coming from the EU and its member states that would scream ‘foul’ if Israel tried to reclaim what rightfully belonged to it. ISIS is sponsored by countries, and sometimes even the US knows those countries and yet continues to fraternize with them in the name of trade and economics. That is playing double standard. ISIS is not funded from the astral world, it is not equipped from the outer space. There are satellites all over the places and yet no one is telling us where ISIS is getting its supplies from. It's a shame!

Will this now make the US rethink its stand concerning boot on the ground? Will it spur France calling for meeting on the Iraqi solutions to try to raise an army to go confront the insurgents? Will there be sanctions on Ankara and Doha, the two most notable and probable sponsors of ISIS operations in the region until they stop their covert funding and supplies to the terrorists? Much more action is needed right now. It goes beyond the rhetoric; but to equip another islamist group which will later turn the weapons against civilization should be out of the question. If it is not the devil let loose on the earth, then the earth people should find urgent solution to the trouble and menace of ISIS by finding out and sanctioning its sponsors.

I pity Americans who embrace these islamists in the name of a free world, civilization and freedoms. They all have this same fate awaiting them if they fall into the hands of the mindless animals, the brutes they tend to be defending. It’s a fact that no matter what you do to them, unless you convert and become their slaves, you’re their enemy even if they ignore you for a while to achieve what they’re looking for. It’s just as well that Britain is in the forefront of misleading adventures in the Middle East, most of which have placed Israel at various levels of disadvantage, including leading the course of isolation if Israel continued to seek to have its land confiscated by the Arabs before the 1948 wars. So it’s not surprising that the man leading terror against civilization could be British, and that’s a tip of the iceberg.

What can anybody say now, condolences to the bereaved family. But any message of solidarity will be meaningless if those man-eating terrorists are left unchecked in the name of trying to avoid an uproar or to score a political point against opponents. A large coalition force that will operate from every surrounding corner will minimize allied casualties and ensure a quick and timely completion of ISIS clean up. Otherwise more of this will continue to insult the eyes of social network users, as the mad people have promised.


by: Donald Fraser Miles from: Elliot Lake, Canada
August 20, 2014 2:21 PM
The US and its allies must strongly attack ISIS which has mounted a serious threat to regional and world peace. The US and its willing allies have an indisputable right to protect regional and world peace and order. ISIS uses religion as a mask which is not the purpose or justification of any religion. It's time to torpedo these fanatics.

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