WASHINGTON/PARIS: After months of silence from the captors of American journalist James Foley, on the night of Aug. 13, his family received a chilling message: Foley would be executed in retaliation for US. air strikes on the militant group Islamic State.
The family passed the message on to the US. government. The Federal Bureau of Investigation, which handles cases involving kidnapped American citizens, helped craft a response, pleading for mercy, said Phil Balboni, chief executive of GlobalPost, the Boston-based online news publication that employed Foley. “It was an appeal for mercy. It was a statement that Jim was an innocent journalist” who respected the people of Syria, where he was held, Balboni said in a telephone interview. Foley’s family and friends hoped the militants were bluffing and wanted a ransom, he said. Six days later, on Tuesday, Islamic State militants stunned America with a gruesome video posted on YouTube showing the beheading of Foley, 40, by a masked, black-clad man who also threatened to kill a second American journalist, Steven Sotloff.
Foley’s death, highlighting how Syria has become perhaps the most dangerous country on earth for journalists, followed intense efforts by GlobalPost and others to identify his captors, and despite brief e-mail exchanges between the militants and his family in late 2013 about a possible ransom. The captors demanded a ransom of 100 million euros, or about $135 million, for his release, according to a GlobalPost spokesman. The White House declined to comment on the warning about Foley but it said special operations troops were sent to Syria earlier this summer on a secret mission to rescue American hostages, including Foley, but did not find them. “Since his capture, we have been using every tool at our disposal to try to bring him home to his family and to gather any and all information we could get about his whereabouts, his condition and the threats he faced,” White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said.
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