Baghdad (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Islamic State militia have released a video showing the beheading of American journalist James Foley, who was abducted while covering the war in Syria November 22, 2012, the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States.
The Sunni fighters say the reporters' death is revenge for the bombing raids ordered by Washington in recent days, crucial for the Iraqi army and Kurdish Peshmerga to regain control of the Mosul dam, in northern Iraq.
In a message on his Facebook page, Foley's mother, Diane, says she has never been prouder of their son, who "gave his life trying to expose the world to the suffering of the Syrian people".
Analysts and security experts are assessing the video for authentification, even if there is little doubt about the fate of the US journalist. In a statement, the White House said that if true, the video is "apalling".
Foley was abducted in Bineh, in Syria, in November 2012 while covering the conflict between the army and rebels in Damascus for the American newspaper Global Post, as well as other international media including the AFP agency. The 40-year old photojournalist, eldest of five children, was taken by an armed gang, who raided an internet cafe; at the time of the seizure his interpreter was also taken, but was later released.
In the video titled "Message to America", a man who is identified as James Foley is dressed in orange, kneeling in an unknown desert area, next to a man armed with a knife and dressed in black with his face covered. The militant, who speaks in English with a British accent, claims to be a member of the Islamic State, adding that the death of the journalist is a direct result of American bombing against IS positions in Iraq in recent days.
At the end of the brutal execution, the reporter's head is placed upon his bloody body, according to a macabre ritual. In conclusion, the video shows "Steven Joel Sotloff," a second American hostage - visible for a few seconds, also dressed in orange and kneeling - who will be beheaded if Washington does not stop its raids. "The life of this American citizen, [Barack] Obama, depends on your upcoming decisions," concludes the man with the covered face. The President was informed of the incident, but did not want to make statements before an official statement about the veracity of the video itself.
In an interview with the BBC in 2012 James Foley - already previously kidnapped in Libya in 2011 and released after 45 days in captivity - explained the reasons that pushed him to cover the conflict, including the attempt to "expose untold stories." "There is a lot of violence - added the reporter - but there is also the desire to truly discover who these people are. And I think this is the real source of inspiration."
The militia of the Islamic State established a caliphate that covers part of eastern Syria and northern Iraq. They are accused of having killed thousands of people in areas falling under their control. The violence caused by the advance of the jihadists has displaced at least 1.2 million people in Iraq alone.
These militants are followers of a fanatical and extreme view of Sunni Islam who punish (even) with death anyone who does not convert. Its members continue to persecute non-Muslims such as Christians and Yazidis, as well as Shiite Muslims who they regard as heretics, and moderate Sunnis.