The Islamic State, a Sunni militant outfit that has taken over several towns of Iraq and Syria and declared a Caliphate, has purportedly beheaded an American photojournalist who had gone missing in Syria two years ago.
The beheading of journalist James Foley, the video of which the group had posted on its media website and on YouTube, was allegedly done in retaliation to the airstrikes by the US military in Iraq over the last few weeks. The militants have also threatened to execute another American journalist if the strikes do not stop.
Foley, 40, had gone missing in Syria in 2012 where he was covering the civil war, and was believed to have been held captive by the armed forces of President Bashar al-Assad.
The US government is determining the authenticity of the video, titled "A Message to America.". While YouTube has pulled down the footage, the video and its transcript have been released by SITE Intelligence.
It shows Foley saying before his execution that – "I call on my friends, family and loved ones to rise up against my real killers, the U.S. government, for what will happen to me is only a result of their complacent criminality." He also urged his family to not accept any "meagre compensation" from the government.
It shows the IS executioner saying, "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".
The militant also identified the second journalist Steven Joel Sotloff and directly warned US President Barack Obama that "the life of the American citizen" depended on his "next decision".
A statement by National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden, as reported by The Washington Post, read: "The intelligence community is working as quickly as possible to determine its authenticity. If genuine, we are appalled by the brutal murder of an innocent American journalist and we express our deepest condolences to his family and friends. We will provide more information when it is available."
The video if authentic, gives a chilling reminder of the 2002 execution of US journalist Daniel Pearl in Pakistan by the Al Qaeda. In a macabre reference, it shows Foley, who used to work for Global Post, dressed in an orange outfit similar to the orange jumpsuits that detainees wear at the infamous Guantanamo Bay prison run by the US military in Cuba.
It is now to be seen whether Obama retaliates if the cold-blooded killing of the US citizen is proven, given that he had authorized military airstrikes against the militants in Iraq primarily to protect Americans based in Irbil.
With the life of another American journalist hanging in the balance if the US does go ahead with more airstrikes, the US President may have to make a crucial decision on its intervention in the Iraq crisis.
Obama was briefed about the video by deputy national security adviser Benjamin J. Rhodes, on Air Force One while he was on way to Martha's Vineyard for his vacation.
The video emerged just hours after the militants had sent out a warning to the US saying – "We will drown all of you in blood", released after the Kurdish forces reclaimed the Mosul Dam with help from the US military.