Video surfaced late Tuesday that purportedly shows Islamic militants beheading an American journalist in response to U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq.
James Wright Foley, who once worked for the Defense Department's Stars and Stripes newspaper, among other outlets, was killed by militants affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, the al-Qaida inspired Islamic group that controls portions of Iraq and Syria, according to video posted on social-media websites.
The death was later reported by other news and intelligence organizations. President Obama's National Security Council was trying to verify the video's authenticity. "We have seen a video that purports to be the murder of a US citizen by ISIL," it said on Twitter. "Working as quickly as possible to determine its authenticity."
In the almost 5-minute segment, entitled, "A Message to America," Foley is wearing an orange shirt and pants and pleads with his family members against the U.S. military intervention in Iraq in what is clearly a scripted speech, according to an edited copy and transcript of the video posted online by the SITE Intelligence Group, a company that tracks terrorist activity.
A fighter says, "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," and beheads the journalist.
Foley went missing in northwest Syria on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 22, 2012, while on assignment for Agence France-Press and the Boston-based media company GlobalPost, according to a website set up by his family and an article by the Associated Press. The oldest of five children, he has reported independently from the Middle East for the past five years, according to the website. Before he became a journalist, he worked as a teacher and mentor.
"We have never been prouder of our son Jim," his mother, Diane, wrote in a message posted on the website's Facebook page. "He gave his life trying to expose the world to the suffering of the Syrian people.
"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.
"We thank Jim for all the joy he gave us. He was an extraordinary son, brother, journalist and person. Please respect our privacy in the days ahead as we mourn and cherish Jim."
In the gruesome video, the ISIL fighter also threatens to execute another journalist, Steven Joel Sotloff, who disappeared near the Syrian-Turkish border in 2013. "The life of this American citizen, Obama, depends on your next decision," the fighter says, holding Sotloff, a freelancer for Time and other companies.
The Pentagon hasn't yet released a statement about the incident.
The video and photos were produced by the IS' al-Furqan Media Foundation and originally posted on the group's Diaspora accounts on Aug. 19, according to SITE. They were subsequently removed from such social-media sites as YouTube and Twitter.
(Story was updated to include additional information from the White House and victim's family.)
-- Brendan McGarry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org