A propaganda video claiming to show U.S. journalist James Wright Foley kneeling on a mountaintop and making a long anti-U.S. statement, presumably under duress, was posted to YouTube on Tuesday. Foley is standing next to an ISIS militant, who makes some remarks placing the blame for Foley’s death on U.S. President Barack Obama, before appearing to behead Foley with a knife.
The video, posted by Furqan Media, an official ISIS outlet, begins with footage of President Obama’s speech announcing his authorization of air strikes against ISIS in northern Iraq, preceded by these words: “Obama authorizes military operation against the Islamic State, effectively placing America upon a slippery slope towards a new war front against Muslims.” The video, which gives no hint as to where Foley was being held, then shows footage of the recent air strike in northern Iraq, before cutting to the beginning of Foley’s speech.
In the statement, during which he remained calm, Foley appeared to date his remarks by referring to recent strikes in Iraq. He specifically mentioned his brother John, a member of the U.S. Air Force.
The militant at Foley’s side started his speech by saying: “This is James Wright Foley, an American citizen of your country.” His statement referred to the recent air strikes, and continued: “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 aggression towards Muslims from all walks of life who have accepted the Islamic caliphate as their leadership.”
Time magazine journalist Steven Sotloff, who has also been missing in Syria since August 2013, was paraded alive toward the end of the video, with the ISIS militant holding him threatening the U.S. president, saying that Sotloff’s life depended on Obama’s next move in Iraq.
Foley, a freelance journalist working for the Global Post, went missing near Taftanaz in Syria on Nov. 22, 2012, as he was on his way out of the country. His family and fellow journalists have been campaigning for his release ever since. Foley also spent six weeks in captivity in Libya while reporting on the war there in 2011. Numerous theories were posited for his disappearance, with many surmising that he was no longer alive, or that he was in Syrian state custody.
Jihadist forums immediately lit up with gloating posts upon the video’s publication, with exhortations to keep pushing the propaganda via social media. Said one, posting on the Hanein forums: “We must upload the video with a title in both Arabic and English for it to arrive to the American people … Keep uploading the video every minute since YouTube declared war on us you brothers.” Journalists and others, meanwhile, urged people not to share the video.
The original video was immediately removed from YouTube for breaching its terms and conditions on violent content, but multiple copies are continuing to pop up.
Several others pounced on the fact that Foley was shown in military-style fatigues during a split-screen portion of the video. “Look at minute 2:16, is he a soldier or a journalist!!” said one.