James Foley, a photojournalist who disappeared in Syria nearly two years ago, was killed by members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, known as ISIS, President Barack Obama confirmed today in a press conference.
Rumors of Foley’s death circulated after a video that apparently showed his graphic execution was posted on YouTube yesterday before being quickly removed by the website.
“There has to be a common effort to extract this cancer so it does not spread,” President Obama said, referring to ISIS, a jihadist group that has been designated a terrorist organization by the United States for 10 years. The group has recently gained attention for its role in the Syrian Civil War, as well as its violent takeovers across Iraq.
Foley, who was reporting on the fighting in Syria for Agence France-Press and GlobalPost, was captured in November 2012 when the car he was riding in was stopped by militants.
“We have never been prouder of our son Jim,” Diane Foley, his mother, wrote on the Free James Foley Facebook page after the video of his death began circulating. “He gave his life trying to expose the world to the suffering of the Syrian people.”
The disturbing video, which the White House today confirmed was authentic, shows a masked man who identifies himself as a member of ISIS decapitating Foley. The executioner, who reportedly has a British accent, threatens to kill another kidnapped journalist, Steven Joel Sotloff, who is shown on camera.
In her statement, Diane Foley asked the militants 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.”
President Obama, who said he talked to Foley’s family earlier in the day, dismissed ISIS’s actions as “cowardly” and their ideology “bankrupt.”
“They may claim out of expediency that they are at war with the United States or the West, but the fact is they terrorize their neighbors and offer them nothing but an endless slavery to their empty vision and the collapse of any definition of civilized behavior,” he said.
ISIS is reported to have killed thousands of Muslims, Christians, and members of religious minorities during the Syrian Civil War, and has kidnapped and raped women in Iraq. The organization uses religious violence in its goal to establish a caliphate, or Islamic state, in the region. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaimed himself caliph, or spiritual leader, of the organization’s territory in Iraq and Syria on June 29.
Adam Janofsky is a recent graduate of the University of Chicago, where he was editor of the student newspaper, The Chicago Maroon. He has worked and written for The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg News, and The Bangkok Post. Follow him on Twitter @adamjanofsky.