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Slain Journalist’s Mother Calls Paris Attacks a Tragedy for All Mankind

FILE - Diane Foley takes part in a program on threats to journalism and press freedom at the Newseum in Washington, Feb. 4, 2015.
FILE - Diane Foley takes part in a program on threats to journalism and press freedom at the Newseum in Washington, Feb. 4, 2015.

The mother of James Foley, the American freelance journalist who was slain by his Islamic State captors last year, told VOA that she felt the pain of the victims of last week’s Paris attacks.

“The suffering and tragedy of the people killed in Paris is a tragedy for the whole mankind,” Diane Foley told VOA’s Deewa service in Washington after testifying before Congress on Tuesday. “My suffering, you know, is the suffering of all humanity. My heart goes out to all people who are suffering from the hands of IS or any other terrorist group. We need not to forget IS and be truthful about how we engage this horrific enemy. They want to destroy our way of life.”

Foley offered condolences to the families of the Paris victims in testimony before a House subcommittee.

"Our son James was tortured and starved by ISIS for nearly two years, just for being an American," she told lawmakers.

James Foley was kidnapped in Syria in 2012. His mother, who has said the U.S. government did not do enough to free her son before he was beheaded by IS, said the U.S. needed to re-examine its policies for dealing with hostage situations.

“I have no answers. I am not an expert,” she said in the VOA interview when asked what policies needed to be changed.

After Foley's slaying, the Obama administration conducted a six-month review of U.S. hostage policies and changed them so that the government can now communicate directly with hostage takers.

President Barack Obama promised families they would not face criminal prosecution if they negotiated with terrorists, and “I acknowledged to them in private what I want to say publicly — that it is true that there have been times where our government, regardless of good intentions, has let them down. I promised them that we can do better.”

A U.S. attempt to rescue Foley in Syria failed in July 2014, and it was learned later that he and other hostages had been moved before the raid. The families blamed the Obama administration for not acting on intelligence sooner.

“I feel that all of us that fight this terrorist threat need to be shrewder and need to come to know what these people want, need to understand, need to be willing to talk to them, engage them, because they are shrewder than us,” Diane Foley said of terrorists. “They know how to hurt us. So it’s very tragic. We need to get much shrewder. We can’t ignore this threat. We cannot ignore it, or we will be very sorry.”

After James Foley's death, his parents established the James W. Foley Legacy Foundation, which focuses on hostage advocacy, support for press freedom and promotion of educational opportunities for disadvantaged youth. Diane Foley said the organization was set up because her son believed that American hostages need to be a U.S. government priority.

“They should be as valuable as any other person in the world," she said. The government should care about hostages "and try to help them be freed. James also cared about safety for journalists and humanitarian aid workers who dared to go to conflict zones.”

Diane Foley called the Paris attacks "very sad" and said, "We need to build bridges of peace.”

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