Yellow Ribbon Project

ISIS Beheads American Journalist Foley, Calls Murder Retaliation for U.S. Airstrikes


The Islamic State’s official media just released a graphic video showing the beheading of American journalist James Foley, who was taken in northwest Syria on Thanksgiving Day 2012.

The ISIS terrorist in the video says that the beheading is revenge for President Obama’s recent airstrikes on ISIS targets in Iraq.

The video, viewed in full by PJM, begins with a snippet of Obama speaking about the strikes, then shifts to images of the strikes with a title that reads, “American Aggression Against the Islamic State.” The title card then says a “A Message to America.”

Foley, with a shaved head, was kneeling on the ground in an orange top and pants next to a terrorist dressed in black, with his face covered.

“I call on my friends, family and loved ones to rise up against my real killer, the U.S. government,” Foley said, clearly reading from a script and squinting in the sun. “For what will happen to me is only a result of their complacency and criminality.”

He gives a message to his “beloved parents” to not accept any compensation for his death from those who ordered the airstrikes, the last “nail” in his “coffin.” He then addresses his Air Force brother John: “Think about what you are doing. Think about the lives you destroy, including your own family.”

“…I wish I could have more time. I wish I could have the hope of freedom, and seeing my family again. But that ship has sailed. I guess all in all, I wish I wasn’t American.”

“This is James Wright Foley, an American citizen of your country,” the terrorist says to the camera, in what could be a Londoner accent. “As a government you have been at the forefront of aggression towards the Islamic State. You have plotted against us and gone far out of your way to find reasons to interfere in our affairs.”

As the terrorist talked, his right hand clutched the shirt of Foley, who is grimacing with his eyes closed.

In his left hand, the ISIS member wields a 6-to-8-inch knife.

“Your strikes have cause casualties among Muslims. You’re 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 an aggression toward Muslims of all walks of life who have accepted the Islamic caliphate as their leadership,” he continues.

“So any attempt by you, Obama, to deny Muslims their right of living in safety under the Islamic caliphate will result in the bloodshed of your people.”

The terrorist then stands behind Foley and begins to saw at the American’s throat. The video cuts away to Foley’s head resting on his back, his wrists still in handcuffs, sandals on the ground nearby and the knife laying in the dirt.

The same terrorist then reappears holding another man with a shaved head wearing orange: Steven Joel Sotloff, an American journalist who has written for TIME and the Christian Science Monitor, kidnapped in Syria in August 2013.

“The life of this American citizen, Obama, depends on your next decision,” says the ISIS member.

Foley, a Boston-based freelance reporter and Marquette University grad, escaped one wartime capture. Taken by pro-Gadhafi forces in Libya in April 2011, he was released 45 days later after a global campaign spearheaded by his friends and family. He was taken in Syria while working for Agence France-Presse.

Witnesses saw a gunman take Foley, 40, in the Idlib province, and his driver and translator were later released.

“Jim is the oldest of five children. He has reported independently and objectively from the Middle East for the past five years,” the Foley family stated on their website appeal. “Prior to his work as a journalist, Jim helped empower disadvantaged individuals as a teacher and mentor assisting them in improving their lives.”

The State Department last commented on the case in November.

“We of course remain concerned about journalists’ safety and well- being, both of those journalists’ safety and well-being, or any, of course. We’re working through and continue to work through our Czech protecting power in Syria to get information on the — both of their welfare and whereabouts,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said then when asked about Foley and Austin Tice, another journalist taken in Syria by unknown abductors.

“We do appreciate the efforts of the Czech mission on behalf of our citizens. We’re in regular contact with both the Foley and the Tice families,” Psaki added. “We have long expressed, as all of you know, concern about the safety of journalists in Syria, and have strongly urged all sides to ensure their safety.”

After his release from Libya, Foley told Marquette Magazine that he found strength in the voice of a hostage American contractor reading the Bible in a neighboring cell.

“In a very calm voice, he’d read me Scripture once or twice a day,” Foley said. “Then I’d pray to stay strong. I’d pray to soften the hearts of our captors. I’d pray for God to lift the burdens we couldn’t handle. And I’d pray that our moms would know we were OK.”

UPDATE 10 p.m.: Foley’s mother, Diane, posted a statement on Facebook.

“We have never been prouder of our son Jim. 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.”

The White House said in a statement shortly before 9 p.m., “While on Air Force One, the President was briefed by Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes on a recently released video by ISIL. The President will continue to receive regular updates.” Obama flew back to his vacation home on Martha’s Vineyard, where he’ll remain through Sunday.

James Foley, Aleppo, Syria - 08/12