Islamic State beheads American reporter


The Islamic State beheaded an American reporter who was captured in Syria in 2012, and threatened to kill another if the US military does not halt its air campaign against the jihadist group in northern Iraq.

Today the Islamic State posted a video of the beheading of James Wright Foley, a journalist who was captured by the group in Binesh, Syria on Nov. 22, 2012. The English-language video, which is titled “A Message to America,” was released by the Al Furqan Media Foundation, a media arm of the Islamic State, and obtained by the SITE Intelligence Group.

The video begins with a clip of President Barack Obama explaining the reasoning for the US military’s re-engagement in Iraq. Then, the video cuts to Foley, whose hands are cuffed behind his back and is wearing an orange jumpsuit, and an Islamic State fighter dressed in black.

Foley blames the United State for his death because it launched airstrikes against the Islamic State, and urges his brother, who is in the US Air Force, to quit the military.

“I guess all in all, I wish I wasn’t an American,” Foley says just before the Islamic State fighter brandishes a knife and begins to saw off his head.

The video then shows Foley’s body on the ground, with his head placed on top of it.

Before he beheads Foley, the Islamic State executioner says, in non-native English with a British accent, that the American journalist is to be killed because the US attacked Muslims in Iraq. The Islamic State fighter also says that the US is now fighting “an Islamic Army.”

“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 towards the Islamic State is an aggression towards Muslims from all walks of life who have accepted the Islamic Caliphate as their leadership,” he says.

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

After beheading Foley and displaying his mutilated corpse, the Islamic State fighter then appears with Steven Joel Sotloff, another American journalist who was captured in Syria on Aug. 4, 2013.

“The life of this American citizen, Obama, depends on your next decision,” the Islamic State fighter says as he grasps the collar of the orange jumpsuit worn by a terrified Sotloff.

The Islamic State is clearly seeking to deter the United States from conducting further airstrikes in Iraq. The US began airstrikes against the Islamic State on Aug. 7 after President Obama directed the military to halt the Islamic State’s advance on Irbil, the Kurdish capital, and support humanitarian operations to the Yazidi minority trapped on Mount Sinjar. US military operations were expanded on Aug. 15 by Obama to support a Kurdish offensive to retake the Mosul Dam and surrounding villages. The US military has destroyed numerous Islamic State armored personnel carriers, armored vehicles, artillery pieces, technicals and pickup trucks, and fixed fighting positions in the airstrikes.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • Birbal Dhar says:

    This islamic terrorist group have signed their own death sentences on themselves. The video will not make America scare away. In fact it will make them more determine to finish of this evil islamic state that has murdered people throughout Iraq and Syria. Watch out ISIS, your days are numbered. Forget Andalusia and Rome, set your sights to the hell fire, which the Kurds, Americans and Shias will help you deliver to your external damnation.

  • Shlomo says:

    in non-native English with a British accent
    He’s a native Londoner of Bangladeshi, Pakistani or Indian extraction.

  • donowen says:

    It makes no difference where he is from.He is a free man who is very accurate on the future of ISIS. These men cover their faces because they know in their hearts they will lose as they always have and we will eventually find them. Hellfire missiles are appropriately named, they will take thousands of these creatures out.

  • m3fd2002 says:

    These are brutal people. IS will have at least 2.5 years to metastasize. Earlier narrative of a few thousand to 15,000 cadres is flawed. Finally, there is an article that refutes that estimate:
    These estimates are credible in my opinion, given IS’s recent activities. 50,000 cadres is not that many, it won’t even fill a US football stadium. IS will be around for quite some time, it will take strong western leadership to confront them. Not possible under current management. This needs a military strategy, not a law enforcement strategy.

  • Evan says:

    “A reply to the Islamic State.”
    You are all dead men walking. There will be no negotiating. There will be no treaties or agreements made between us to halt the destruction that we are currently raining down on your “army,” nor will there be any respite offered in the future. Flee now, while you still can. Run away and hide like the cowards that you are, because we are coming, and we’re bringing an old friend…

  • deth frum abuv says:

    To the ISIL threat of barbarous and monstrous brutality…. Your message has been heard. Its no stretch to assume American appetite for war has ceased. Phony claims by the military establishment to trick Americans into combat is well known. However, Taking the heads of innocent people and displaying is beyond reproach. We Americans learned a long time ago that that evil such as this cannot be unanswered. The difference that the enemy will be forced to deal with is the cold and very calculated retribution that will be exacted for the crimes against their fellow Muslim, men, women, and children. Their crimes against humanity will need to be answered and will be answered. Retribution however will not be exacted on the enemies time table. Our professionals do not make decisions based on simple emotional impulses like so many ISIL so-called fighters whom whine and cry like so many babies still nestled at their mothers teet. Whatever god ISIL claims to represent has already abandoned them. They are just too stupid to know it yet.

  • Alex says:

    Here’s my question. How did they get so good? Simply thinking you have God on your side isn’t enough. Armed groups who believe in some bizarre cause are a dime a dozen. How did ISIS get to a point where they have conventional military-like organization and tactics? Where is their TRADOC coming from?

  • 5150 says:

    Utterly deplorable, inhuman behavior.

  • We shouldn’t be surprised by this action. These men are the progeny of al-Zarqawi and his brutality. They will continue to do what they want, abide by their own rules, and dispose anyone who gets in their way. Don’t we remember when al-Qeada in Iraq beheaded Nick Berg? What about the massacre of the Blackwater contractors? In the context of Iraq now and when al-Zarqawi masterminded the insurgency from 2004-2006, I think we forget the impact that he really had on the jihadi constituency in regards to his violence of action against infidels during this time period. al-Zarqawi was not a scholar, he gained notoriety with intimidation and ruthlessness. I believe we are witnessing the same kind of behavior from the IS rank and file right now.

  • cam says:

    What gutless,pieces of dog poop these Isis drop kicks are…i hope America drops a bomb on the whole bloody country…wipe the lot out

  • ECH says:

    50,000 IS fighters just in Syriam 3fd2002. Which is a reasonable number from what I have seen. They confirmed the number themselves and said they have 30,000 fighters in Iraq.
    Their growth rate as we learned in 2004 becomes an exponential growth curve when they take over cities. They will be a vastly stronger foe in a year then they are now without serious world involvement in knocking them back down.

  • Mike says:

    Let’s introduce these punks to the US Marines, shall we?

  • Nick says:

    “Posted by Shlomo at August 19, 2014 8:02 PM ET:
    in non-native English with a British accent
    He’s a native Londoner of Bangladeshi, Pakistani or Indian extraction.”
    ……and we know he’s left-handed, and we have a voice print.
    The teams will enjoy the hunt for this one !!

  • Tommy says:

    ISIS as soon as possible – surrender. This will be your only chance to survive. Time is running out. When the impotent administration vacates Washington and a new leader takes over you will be a grease stain in the desert. We are coming for you.

  • Muhammad Qawi says:

    Alex, I’ve been asking myself that question too. I’m not a military guy and no nothing about how a military works so I won’t pretend to know an answer. I started following this entire ISIS thingy when they released their propaganda tape (the one with the drive by shootings). The gains in Iraq and Syria are, to me, stunning. I liken what ISIS did to be comparable to a college football team that makes a dramatic rise in the rankings early in the season. Usually, that is the result of good coaching, good recruiting, good scouting, and some amount of experience on either side of the ball. What remains to be seen is how ISIS performs against a non conference opponent. We only know how they have done against the Syrian Army, rival factions, the Iraqi Army (a cupcake opponent), and the Peshmurga. It’s hard to get a feel for the strength of their conference which impacts their strength of schedule. The Western Powers and, possibly, Iran will definitely be a test. I believe some of the hype may be the result of a weak schedule and a weak conference and that will be exposed.

  • Evan says:

    The ” military like,” organization is a function of their beauracracy.
    One thing that’s kind of always had a presence in this part of the world and amongst the Muslims in particular is good record keeping.
    The men leading IS are Baathists, with considerable combat experience and knowledge from their days in Saddams army.
    Not to mention the wealth of experience gleaned by jihadists after fighting my country for the past 13 years.
    Not to mention the conflict in Syria, with just too many players to list here, and the IS is fighting just about every single one of them.
    So you see Alex, that’s how they’ve been able to progress to the point where they are now. I’m not sure if there is any such thing as a training doctrine within the ranks of IS. From what I’ve read here on LWJ, I’ve seen reports of new IS recruits being pushed through training camps, sometimes with as little as between 1-3 days of training before being sent out to the fight. So, it’s not that they’re just “that good,” it’s that they are organized and efficient and that they’ve been able to take advantage of opportunities on the ground, and then consolidate and hold newly acquired territories.
    You’re right about there being lots and lots of armed groups with crazy ideologies, but the level of organization and beauracracy found in the IS, truly sets them apart.

  • m3fd2002 says:

    Dr. Furnish,
    Very good summation. Thanks. Maybe you can send a copy to the USA’s national security team. What would be the odds that these elements would use a weapon of mass destruction on a soft target, if they could? That was the reasoning for the Bush/Cheney Doctrine, which got lost during the Iraqi aftermath.

  • Paul D says:

    If he was from London he will be Pakistani background.Pakistan and Gulf states teach hatred of non believers!

  • 5150 says:

    Thank you for that article. Contains a myriad of relevant information applicable to this latest act of vileness.

  • Mr T. says:

    Stop calling these guys “fighters”. Fighters don’t cut throats of non combatants with their hands tied behind their backs. That’s not really a “fight”.
    This guy is just a lowly cowardly dog.

  • Never Give Up! says:

    Well folks this stuff ain’t “paddy cake” over there and we are at war against the barbarians for civilization itself. It isn’t an HBO series or something to ignore. The Obama Administration and his “can’t we all get along” crowd are realizing that lesson today. We look weak and timid.
    These groups want to take us all back to the 8th century AD (ACE for you PCers) where beheadings, torture and genocide were common. They want to use our western freedoms and laws against us to obtain power and crush us. Maybe we, the western world, will wake up and smell the coffee.
    I feel sorry for this guy and his family. I’m sorry for his suffering for the last two years. However, I would expect more beheadings of westerners in the future.
    On a tactical note, if you are ever captured by IS, ISIL, ISIS, Taliban, HIG, TTP, Al Qaeda or any other jihadi group, never read any statement condemning yourself, your actions, your family or your country. If they’re going to kill you, they’re going to kill you.
    Never allow your captors the propaganda value of you grovelling in the dirt. Several years ago in Iraq, an Italian guy started insulting, cursing and screaming as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi started sawing on his neck and finally beheaded him. This BRAVE Italian soul went down fighting and most importantly, denied his captors a propaganda video.
    Never give up, never surrender!

  • jean says:

    You have raised an interesting point about TRADOC; ISIS has captured significant amounts of equipment. There was a report that they had taken control of 50 M198s. That report surfaces after the video clip of some of the first airstrikes. Not sure I believe it. But they have a lot gear. HUMMVs, MRAPs, and M-1s require lots of TLC and they took that stuff from the Iraq Army….not most maintenance savvy bunch. Before they use it, they will have to keep it running. The M-1s will turn into pill boxes and the M198’s will be used as direct fire weapons until the ammo runs out or bags get wet. MRAPs won’t off road. Don’t expect a lot of conventional tactics from this bunch, but their hybrid insurgency and terror tactics should not be under estimated.

  • IronV says:

    I really don’t understand the comments disparaging the Obama administration for showing “weakness” in the face of Islamic terrorists. Obama ran on a platform promising to take the fight to the real enemy. He also promised to renew the hunt for Osama bin Laden and make it a top priority.
    Credit where credit is due. He’s delivered on both counts, mounting a relentless campaign against terrorist leadership that has smoked dozens of these slime. Something the Bush administration was not interested in doing. I have no doubt Obama will go after these ISIS clowns.

  • Alan Taylor says:
    This was the brave Italian who you referred to. The man showed real spirit.

  • Tom says:

    Either Obama needs to go all in, or get the hell out. It makes no sense to intervene if we aren’t going to hit IS in Syria, especially as it looks like Tabqa Airbase has just fallen going by their twitter feeds.
    If Obama is serious he needs to ask Congress for a declaration of war against IS, swallow his pride/political capital and ally with Iran and Assad, and take the fight to IS. That also means dumping KSA and Israel, but in the long run Iran and Baathist Syria make for more stable allies who won’t drag us into mess after mess like Saudi Arabia and Israel. Their only condition is that they won’t be vassals which should be fine.
    If not, we are wasting time, money, and prestige like in Vietnam and Afghanistan and the result will be the same: We lose for nothing.
    War is not something you start on a whim and Congress needs to step up and reclaim its role in deciding military action outside of anti-piracy, immediate retaliation to an obvious inbound nuclear strike (time obviously not permitting Congress to convene), and immediate defense to an attack.
    All other instances in which America’s home territory, excluding foreign missions, is not attacked, the President must gain Congressional Authorization before any military action is taken. Also there must be a draft with no exemptions, its the only way to ensure all Americans have skin in the game and won’t be apathetic to the call to war, thus more likely to vote and hold politicians accountable and they in turn hold the military accountable.
    Otherwise again, no gain, we lose, and we break the bank.

  • Kate says:

    RIP James Foley.
    As far as identifying the terrorist goes, I am curious if there might be some health clues as well. He has very wide fingers, which suggest that he had adequate dietary protein while his bones were developing. In other words, wide bones suggest he had enough to eat while he was growing up.Therefore, he likely either spent time in the West (the Western diet is high in protein) during his childhood and/or adolescence, or he was from an affluent

  • donowen says:

    Mr Foley’s death will in all probability not be in vain. It is one of those stupid acts that fools and/ or mentally ill people do that when they look back on say “what was I thinking”. Several hundred Toyotas with 50 Cals do not trump Aircraft Carriers- That’s why there is only one super power-that can put 300 airplanes into an area in several weeks with ~100 drones that can hang for EVER! This single event at this time will result in the ultimate annihilation of IS via numerous groups. Cutting off their escape routes to Syria will signal the beginning of the end. What we are seeing know is the end of the beginning- What the german submariners called the “happy days”. Killing was easy and fun. That’s over now, their blood and lots of it will be spilled at every turn. Boys buckle up you’re about to get exterminated Iwo Jima style. We’re the best mass killers God/ Allah/ Yehovah ever created- you were listening to the wrong teachers.

  • James says:

    @Never Give Up!
    On a tactical note, if you are ever captured by IS, ISIL, ISIS, Taliban, HIG, TTP, Al Qaeda or any other jihadi group, never read any statement condemning yourself, your actions, your family or your country. If they’re going to kill you, they’re going to kill you.
    Read more:
    I couldn’t agree with you more. Could it be the reason they chose this guy to go first was because they knew in advance he’d make such inflammatory statements?
    If there is any lesson in this it is the fact that we need to stand up to these tyrants.
    I also find it disturbing what his mother had to say about it (as if she’s saying: ‘My son just got his head cut off; I’m so proud of him ! ‘).
    These thugs do know how to manipulate the media mob (the ‘knee-jerks’ in the newsrooms); who, by the way, are the real ‘paper-tigers’ and ‘box-cutter boys’).
    Why doesn’t the news media show some courage and expose these criminal/cowards for what they really are? These thugs are out to bring about the very destruction of a free press and our other rights enshrined in the Constitution.

  • kush dragon says:

    Can you imagine working for this group?
    Jihadist #1: Hey, glad you could make it for lunch! How’s your day going?
    Jihadist #2: Uh, so-so. After breakfast this morning we drove for about an hour to the middle of nowhere. They didn’t tell me why I was there but it ended up being an execution. Long story short I got to cut off a guy’s head. It was cool, but blood got everywhere and I had to go home and get a change of clothes when I finished. It took a while, so I have to put in overtime tonight. Truth be told, I prefer just shooting them in the head.
    Jihadist #1: Ah that sucks. You’ll probably have to bury some bodies. I got to cut some heads myself last week and it was so much fun! I’m glad you got to try your hand at it. Everyone should do that at least once when they visit the Caliphate.
    Jihadist #2: Uh-oh, gotta go. Sorry man. Caliph Ibrahim just texted, he says there’s some people in a few villages over that need to be buried alive. I’ll try and catch up with you tomorrow.
    Jihadist #1: Alright buddy, drive safe! Watch out for airstrikes!
    Absolute morons.

  • shrinivasrao s sohoni says:

    Thanks, Timothy Furnish, for your article. Very illuminating and apposite.
    RIP James Wright Foley.

  • Ram says:

    As expected a lot of chest thumping here about American military prowess and how they wipe the whole area out with their bombs.
    Need I remind people here that:
    1. Americans caused a lot of the present trouble including rise of IS in the first place, by removing or assisting in removal of secular dictators like Saddam, Qaddafi and Mubarak
    2. Americans were blind to or even supportive of Jehadis as long as they targeted other countries (e.g. Lashkar against India or Uighurs against China or Chechens against Russia). It suits American policy to call these guys freedom fighters and draw glee from their putting US foes in a difficult situation. Well, now boot is on other foot
    3. Even now, US is playing the same dirty games – happy that IS is showing Iran-friendly Shias their place. Shit hit the fan only when Kurdistan and then Westerners were attacked. Till then, US was waiting for Iran to do their dirty work for them
    Both sides in this battle are morally bankrupt. Let’s save the rhetoric for something more meaningful

  • wallbangr says:

    @James and @ Never Give Up!
    Pretty easy for a couple of internet armchair warriors to impugn the victim here. He was a journalist — not a captured soldier. He was rightfully scared. Most mere mortals would be. Yeah, it sucks that he gave them a “propaganda victory,” as you say, but the rational world knows that such statements are made under extreme duress and give them the weight they deserve accordingly. I know you are expressing your outrage at IS, but it seems rather insensitive to focus on whether or not a guy who has been in captivity and faced brutal torture for years, knowing he is about to be slaughtered in the most inhumane way, uttered the statement they told him to. I wonder how tough most of us would be with that knife to our throats. @ James: Please go easy on the parents. They just lost a son. Have a little more empathy. In fact, they showed more composure than most would. Please have a little more respect for the deceased and for their grieving families

  • Muhammad Qawi says:

    IronV, there is one slight “wrinkle” in your commentary, the withdrawal of troops from Iraq. That was a complete disaster because it opened the door for ISIS. Perhaps it’s true that he may go after these “ISIS clowns” but had he not enacted the withdrawal, there would be no need to go after them in the first place. We are about to pay for the same real estate twice.

  • m3fd2002 says:
    This gets better all the time. Either the Obama Administration had “flawed” intelligence. Or there were people in the know that were ignored so Obama wouldn’t have to address the issue. My money is on number two. This problem can be managed in the near future with competent civilian leadership. My fear is that POTUS will make a strategic blunder with regards to the Ukraine debacle. There we supported the overthrow of an elected government by extreme right wing elements. Putin has the moral high ground. Obama’s sophomoric comments about Russia’s capabilities really concerns me. It’s the only nation at this time that can turn the US into a smoldering shell.

  • WitchDoctor says:

    I would re-up if I knew the gig was killing these barbarians in their own made places of filth.
    WE can only do what is needed with boots down. There is no PC way to accomplish this mission and it will be ugly, but something I think needs to be done.

  • Eric says:

    All the world is infuriated by Foley’s beheading. A very emotionally charged response from one and all. When we come back to ourselves, there is the task of dealing with ISIS. Sending in the Marines in the near term would waste the first real opportunity we have had since Al Qaeda started to spread their ideas. ISIS and Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and many other militant groups and networks share common traits, and a common weakness. They do not follow Islam. They use it like a costume, pretending that sharia law is their code, and that jihad is their great cause. They do not follow the Koran. They do whatever they want, but use sharia to subjugate local populations, to use shame and fear of brutality to make people easy to handle. If US or other non-muslim forces come to fight them, it plays right into their Jihad story. Let the Iraqis and the Syrians fight ISIS. Let Arab Muslims do the killing and the dying in the struggle with ISIS. If ISIS are defeated by fellow muslims, their idea is defeated with them. Whereas if the USA defeats them, their idea survives the defeat, and the jihad is easily resurrected. There is much we can do to influence the fight in the Arabs’ favor, airstrikes being the most obvious thing, but in fact we can do far more than drop bombs. The most important thing we can do, and are already doing, is actively partner with Middle East states in security. As we work these partnerships, we carry the influence to interdict support for ISIS, and deny them weapons like MANPADS and chemical weapons, by securing the agreement of sponsor states for militant salafism that these technologies be kept out of the hands of militants. While not as glamorous as landing Marines in Samarra, these uses of US soft power have done more to deter the international threat from ISIS than boots on the ground have done. We come off better in the long run if we support the Peshmerga, the Islamic Front, and the rebuilding of the Iraqi army after Maliki wrecked it. Let them carry the fight to the ISIS, while we take them down by an order of magnitude with airstrikes. We are early in the airstrikes campaign yet. Mission Creep will happen, as we gain better intel and establish assets to find and fix ISIS HVT’s. We can expect better results as things move along. Let ISIS provide the justification for mission creep, including US airstrikes in ISIS strongholds in Syria, and in Lebanon if needs arise. I advocated a no-fly zone over Lebanon-Syria-Iraq from the outset of the Syrian civil war. We couldn’t find the justification for it back then, when it would have given us the tools to prevent the ISIS developing into the force they are today, let alone invade Iraq and sack Mosul. But we have found the justification after ISIS did their worst, haven’t we? Mark my words, we will be doing airstrikes in Syria, and possibly inLebanon, before this thing progresses too much further. We will have to. ISIS actions, and Middle Eastern countries’ inactions, including Turkey, will compel our broader involvement is taking down ISIS. In years, not months. For now, I would say Obama has got it exactly right. I don’t like him one bit, BTW, but credit where its due.

  • Kate says:

    Any chance the terrorist is from an ethnic group indigenous to Northern or North-Eastern Africa (i.e. Bedouin, Gadabuursi, Rashaida, etc.)?

  • JZarris says:

    @ James, you’ve got it all wrong and are lacking in imagination. Foley took it like a man and it is written all over his face in the video…notice how he doesn’t flinch even as the coward begins? I’ve got dollars to dimes that you or I wouldn’t have had the balls to stay steady through that.
    In all likelihood he read the statement as he knew or suspected that if he did not these thugs would kill or harm someone he had come to care about deeply during his imprisonment. And please, save the trashing of his family; if you’ve ever known anyone who has lost a child you owe it to the Foley’s to show some respect.

  • Alex says:

    It would be interesting to see an order of battle for IS, should we have enough info on them to compile one.

  • wallbangr says:

    Well put, @JZarris
    @Eric: Interesting analysis. Good point about the jihad staying alive even at the hands of a direct American victory. Certainly the American populace doesn’t have the stomach for a large scale boots on the ground op. At least not at this point (a few more outrages like this execution video might change the minds of our fickle masses). I suppose your plan has the added benefit of avoiding large scale American casualties by relying solely on the high tech war. I question, however, whether the folks we are supporting to do the actual ground fighting are reliable enough. I think one of the lessons learned in Vietnam was that you can’t want to win it for them. More importantly, as the political winds change with the coming election cycle, whatever plan we have in place right now could be subject to significant changes in the near future.

  • Israel says:

    And world is after Israel… Thats what world deserve thats what he get…

  • Rosemary Tipping says:

    @JZarris Agree that what you said is well put. Until I read your post I had wondered about James Foley’s statement. Thanks.


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