The mother and father of beheaded journalist James Wright Foley called on ISIS militants to spare the lives of other captured hostages as the authenticity of the barbaric video of his death was confirmed by the White House on Wednesday morning.
White House National Security Council spokesperson Caitlin Hayden issued a statement to say that the ‘US Intelligence Community has analyzed the recently released video showing US citizens James Foley and Steven Sotloff.’
‘We have reached the judgment that this video is authentic. We will continue to provide updates as they are available.’
It was also announced that President Obama would interrupt his vacation at Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts to make an announcement at approximately 12.45pm (ET).
This comes hours after UK Prime Minister David Cameron cut short his vacation to return to head his governments response following the brutal murder of the American journalist by an ISIS jihadist thought to be British.
President Obama had held back from making a public statement about the beheading until the video could be formally authenticated.
Despite this, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers called on the president to cut his vacation short and return to Washington to deal with the threat to US citizens posed by ISIS.
Compounding this, it emerged on Wednesday that several senior US officials with direct knowledge of the situation said ISIS very recently threatened to kill Foley to avenge the crushing airstrikes over the past two weeks against militants advancing on Mount Sinjar, the Mosul dam and the Kurdish capital of Irbil.
Disturbing footage of the execution appeared on Tuesday in a video titled ‘A message to the US’, in which an apparently coerced Foley, 40, recites a pre-prepared script presumably given to him by his captors which he delivers unflinchingly to the camera.
Kidnapped in Syria on Thanksgiving 2012 while working for the GlobalPost agency, Foley brands the US government his real killers and denounces the country of his birth, while his soon-to-be murderer stands over him dressed in black robes and armed with a small knife and gun.
Wearing an orange jumpsuit, with his head shaven, Foley’s voice is strong, but he often pauses to take deep breaths and appears to struggle at times to swallow as he battles against fear.
The executioner, who speaks directly to the camera in what appears to be a British accent, then blames President Barack Obama for Foley’s death before he brutally beheads the brave reporter in front of the camera.
In a chilling warning at the end of the grisly film, the executioner parades another American journalist, Steven Joel Sotloff, who went missing in August 2013, saying: ‘The life of this American citizen, Obama, depends on your next decision.’
Speaking after the video emerged, Foley’s mother Diane issued a statement saying that she and her husband John have nothing but admiration for the bravery of their ‘extraordinary’ son, who they say gave his life to expose the suffering of the Syrian people.
Foley, has been missing since November 2012, after being taken hostage at gunpoint by militants from the group Jabhat al Nusra while reporting from Taftanaz, northern Syria, for the GlobalPost.
Jabhat al Nusra subsequently joined forces with ISIS–which did not exist in anything like its current form when Foley was taken–which explains how he ended up in their hands.
ISIS posted the extremely graphic video shot at an unknown location, titled ‘A Message to America’ to social media as proof of their barbaric actions.
The sickening video was designed to send a clear signal to the US to halt the airstrikes that have destroyed a significant amount of ISIS’ military equipment in and around the Mosul Dam, and allowed Kurdish Peshmerga to reclaim the strategically important complex.
This morning US jets were seen in the air above the dam as the Kurdish troops who now control it were drawn into fighting with ISIS fighters who remain in the area, hoping to retake control.
The gruesome video presented President Barack Obama with bleak options that could define America’s involvement in Iraq and the public reaction to it, potentially dragging him further into a conflict he built much of his presidency on ending.
In a statement posted on the Free James Foley Facebook page last night, Diane Foley wrote that she and husband John ‘have never been prouder of our son Jim’.
Mrs Foley wrote that her son spent his life fighting to expose the suffering of the Syrian people, and pleaded with ISIS to release remaining hostages.
Foley was one of 20 journalists currently missing in Syria, according to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists.
Many of them are thought likely to have passed into ISIS’ hands either because the kidnappers have subsequently sworn allegiance to group’s self-declared caliphate, or because they were sold on.
‘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,’ Mrs Foley’s statement read.
‘We thank Jim for all the joy he gave us. He was an extraordinary son, brother, journalist and person,’ she added.
As of 7am on Wednesday, Foley’s family have still had no confirmation from the US government of their son and brother’s death according to his former employer, the GlobalPost.
President Barack Obama was briefed on the video as he was flying back to the White House on Air Force One From his Martha’s Vineyard vacation. White House National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden says the administration has seen the video.
However, other political leaders were quicker to react.
British foreign secretary Phillip Hammond today said the footage ‘appears to be genuine’, which would make it the first time ISIS has killed an American since the conflict broke out in Syria in 2011.
As the disturbing video unfolds, Foley, dressed in orange and on his knees, is unflinching to the end as he addresses the camera before his death.
It appears the journalist has been coerced into blaming the United States by his brutal captors.
Foley also leaves a haunting message for his brother, John, who he is heard to say is either a past or serving member of the US Air Force.
Referring to airstrikes launched nearly two weeks ago in Iraq, Foley says: ‘I died that day, John, when your colleagues dropped that bomb on these people. They signed my death certificate.’
Foley goes on to blame the ‘complacency and criminality’ of the US for his impending death.
Speaking today British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said the video appeared to be genuine, adding it was ‘an appalling example of the brutality of this organization’.
A spokeswoman for British Prime Minister David Cameron, added: ‘If true, the brutal murder of James Foley is shocking and depraved.’
The UK would oppose the Islamic State ‘with every breath in our body’ and could send British troops to Baghdad to train Iraqi forces to fight the ‘evil organization’, he added.
In his tragic final message to the world, no doubt prepared for him word-by-word by his captors, a resigned says he wished he’d been able to see his family again.
And in a last insult from his vengeful executioners before his brutal beheading Foley is made to deny his birthright as a citizen of the United States.
‘I wish I had more time, I wish I could have the hope of freedom and see my family once again, but that ship has sailed. I guess all in all, I wish I wasn’t American,’ he says.
Foley then stops speaking and his executioner steps forward. The masked, armed and robe-clad man speaks in perfect English in what sounds like a London or southern English accent.
Some experts have since suggested the executioner’s accent also has mild North African intonations, which could well mean he moved to Britain at a young age.
‘This is James Wright Foley, an American citizen of your country. As a government you have been at the forefront of the aggression towards the Islamic State,’ begins the executioner.
‘You have plotted against us and gone far out of your way to find reasons to interfere in our affairs. Today, your military airforce is attacking us daily in Iraq,’ the executioner says.
‘Your strikes have caused casualties amongst Muslims. You are no longer fighting an insurgency.
‘We are an Islamic Army and a state that has been accepted by a large number of Muslims worldwide.
‘So effectively, any aggression toward the Islamic State is aggression towards Muslims from all walks of life who have accepted the Islamic Caliphate as their leadership.
‘So any attempt by you, Obama, to deny the Muslims their rights of living in safety under the Islamic Caliphate will result in the bloodshed of your people.’
At this point the executioner beheads Foley, who is kneeling bravely with hands tied behind his back.
Sotloff has been missing since the middle of 2013 and last tweeted on August 3rd, 2013 about his hometown basketball team the Miami Heat.
According to his Twitter account he was in Libya at the time of his disappearance.
Steven Sotloff’s parents and family are having a hard time coming to terms with the release of the video, a relative told Mail Online.
‘How could we be doing?’ Steven’s aunt, Rhona Forgang, said from her Pennsylvania home on Wednesday.
Mrs Forgang, whose brother is Steven Sotloff’s father Arthur, added that for more than a year the family had been advised to remain silent about his disappearance and whether Steven’s captives had been in touch with them.
The public release by ISIS of the gruesome video does not appear to have changed that. ‘We’ve been told to say nothing at all,’ she said today.