The video that emerged on the Internet Aug. 19 was titled: “A Message to America (from the Islamic State).” A man on his knees dressed in an orange prison jumpsuit was identified as “James Wright Foley.” The executioner, covered in black, gave a statement in a British accent criticizing U.S. military strikes on the Islamic State in the Levant, the Islamist group that has seized control of parts of Syria and Iraq in recent months.
After that Foley, a U.S. journalist who disappeared in northwest Syria in November 2012, was beheaded. He was 40.
Foley, a New Hampshire native who studied and played rugby at Marquette University in Wisconsin had been a school teacher before attending Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, according to the BBC. He was a freelancer who was in Syria reporting for Agence France-Presse and GlobalPost, a Boston-based international news service.
His last article for GlobalPost highlighted frustration among Syrian civilians in the city of Aleppo with the course of the rebellion against Bashar al-Assad’s government.
The video of Foley’s execution also showed an ISIL militant standing next to another U.S. journalist, Steven Joel Sotloff. “The life of this American citizen, Obama, depends on your next decision,” the militant says.
Sotloff, a freelance journalist who had worked for Time, the National Interest, and Media Line, was kidnapped near the Syrian-Turkish border in August 2013.
In a press briefing at the White House Aug. 20, President Obama praised Foley as “a man who lived his work; who courageously told the stories of his fellow human beings; who was liked and loved by friends and family.”
Obama also vowed that “…when people harm Americans, anywhere, we do what’s necessary to see what justice is done.”
Foley had previously covered the civil war in Libya. While there, he was abducted by former president Muammar Qaddafi’s forces in an April 2011 ambush that killed photojournalist Anton Hammerl.
Following Foley’s death, his mother Diane Foley released a statement that was posted to the Find James Foley Facebook page.
“We have never been prouder of our son Jim,” she said. “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….we thank Jim for all the joy he gave us. He was an extraordinary son, brother, journalist and person.”