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US journalist's brutal execution shocks the world

August 21, 2014 11:20 IST

US journalist's brutal execution shocks the world

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The cold-blooded murder of American journalist James Foley has sent shockwaves around the world.

Even as social media websites clamoured to block the execution video, leaders from around the world have heaped scorn on the Islamic State militants.

While British Prime Minister David Cameron condemned the killing as "deeply shocking", UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called it "an abominable crime that underscores the campaign of terror".

Shortly after it was confirmed that Foley had been murdered, Obama said: "ISIL speaks for no religion. ISIL has no ideology of any value to any human beings. Their ideology is bankrupt."

"People like this ultimately fail ... because the future is always won by those who build, not destroy. The world is shaped by people like Jim Foley.

Obama also pledged a relentless response to "cowardly acts of violence".

Shortly after Obama spoke, US central command confirmed 14 new air strikes against Isis near the Mosul Dam, which the Pentagon and Iraqi forces said on Tuesday was no longer under ISIS control.

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But probably that's not what Michael Foley, the slain journalist’s brother, wanted.

"I hope they do more for Steven Sotloff (The other captive American journalist who was seen dressed in an orange jumpsuit like Foley in the video). There’s more that could be done. The footprint’s been laid by some of the other nations."

Michael was hinting at how vastly different responses to kidnappings by US and European governments are saving European hostages but dooming Americans.

According to reports later in the day, elite US military forces secretly invaded Syria recently in a risky and ultimately unsuccessful attempt to free Foley.

The Guardian reported that the night-time raid involved dozens of special operations forces from all US military services, including the 160th special operations aviation regiment.

US forces flew into Syria in defiance of air defence batteries that senior military officials have described as highly threatening to pilots. Modified Black Hawk helicopters were involved, and "armed fixed-wing aircraft and drones" provided cover to forces on the ground, the report said quoting an US administration official.

Yet the operation, which took place in an area of Syria that Obama administration officials declined to disclose, failed when "the hostages were not present at the targeted location," said rear admiral John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary.

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Foley first went missing in November 2012. He was last seen alive in Aleppo, Syria, where he was covering the Syrian civil war. It wasn't clear where he had gone or who had taken him. At that point in the conflict, ISIS had not yet formed.

For a long time, Foley's location was unknown. In May 2013, his family and friends believed they had tracked him to a Syrian government jail.

Foley was kidnapped once before while he was reporting in Benghazi, Libya, and was held for 44 days before the fall of dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

Disclosure of the unsuccessful operation may have consequences for Sotloff, whom ISIS has threatened to kill unless the US ends its bombing campaign against it.

The chilling video of the execution, released by ISIS, begins with Obama explaining his decision to order airstrikes in Iraq before switching to a man dressed in an orange jumpsuit kneeling with a person dressed in black by his side.

"For what will happen to me is only a result of their complacency and criminality," ABC News reported Foley as saying in the video. 

"I wish I had more time. I wish I could have the hope of freedom of seeing my family once again, but that ship has sailed. I guess all in all, I wish I wasn't American."

Seconds later, ABC News reported, the person dressed in black takes out a knife and identifies himself as being with ISIS.

"Today your military air force has attacked us daily," the person said. "Your strikes have caused causalities amongst Muslims. Any attempt to deny the Muslims their right to live in safety under Islamic caliphate will result in the bloodshed of your people."

The video then shows Foley being beheaded.




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Meanwhile, efforts are on to zero down on Foley's killers.

Elizabeth McClelland, a forensic voice and speech analyst who is regularly called as an expert witness in British courts, told the Telegraph that the knifeman appeared to have a South London accent, spoke English as his first language but with possible influences of the Farsi language, which could suggest a family link to Afghanistan.

She said: “The MI5 experts may use a computer programme to narrow down their search, comparing the voice in the video to voices they already have on file. But a computer can’t pick out an exact match, that still relies on the trained human ear, because there is no such thing as a unique voice print.

“The analysts will listen to the tone or timbre of the voice, the pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables, the duration of each syllable as well as the accent and use of grammar. It may be difficult to pin down an exact location in Britain for where the speaker is from, because young people in urban areas tend to have much more muddled and diffuse accents because of the various influences on them."




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