Obama vows ‘relentless’ response to James Foley beheading
President Barack Obama has branded Islamic State (IS) fighters a “cancer” in the Middle East, and said the US will not be swayed from carrying out airstrikes against the group after it beheaded an American journalist.
In his strongest condemnation of the Sunni militants formerly known as Isis, Mr Obama said the group believes they are at war with the West, but are in fact terrorising their own neighbours.
Mr Obama added that he had spoken with the family of James Foley, the 40-year-old freelance reporter who was filmed being murdered in the desert by a black-clad fighter.
The President's remarks came shortly after the White House announced that the video had been authenticated by the US intelligence community.
Separately, Mr Foley's parents confirmed on a Facebook page dedicated to their son’s release that Mr Foley had died. “We have never been prouder of our son Jim,” the page read.
The chief executive of the Global Post, Phil Balboni, told reporters that Mr Foley’s family had received an email from Isis on Wednesday night, which said he was going to be killed.
The email, he said, was “full of rage against the United States for the bombing [of Isis forces in Iraq] and they stated they would execute Jim”.
“Obviously we hoped and pray that that would not be the case and we communicated as quickly as we could with the captors, pleaded with them for mercy [and] explained to them that Jim was an innocent journalist, he’d done no harm to the Syrian people and indeed cared deeply about them,” Mr Balboni said. “Sadly they showed no mercy to Jim.”
During the address in Massachusetts, Mr Obama said: “ISIL [IS] speaks for no religion… No just God would stand for what they did yesterday and what they do every single day,” referring to Mr Foley's murder and the group’s advance across Syria and Iraq, which has seen it kill by the thousands.
Calling their ideology “bankrupt”, he added that IS offers “nothing but an endless slavery to their empty vision and the collapse of any definition of civilized behaviour”.
“One thing we can all agree on is that a group like ISIL [IS] has no place in the 21st century,” Obama said.
Making no reference to the threat from the militant who appeared to have beheaded Mr Foley that he would soon murder another journalist, Steven Sotloff, Mr Obama said the US will "do what [it] must" to protect its people.
The beheading appeared to mark a turning point in the growing US focus on Islamic State as a potential threat to American interests.
Following Mr Obama’s address, US officials said that military planners are considering sending more American forces to Iraq to provide additional security around Baghdad. A senior US official said the number of troops currently under discussion would be fewer than 300.
Since the video was released Tuesday, the US military has pressed ahead by conducting nearly a dozen airstrikes on Islamic State targets in Iraq, as part of its attempt to protect the religious minority Yazidis in Iraq, and prevent the takeover of the Mosul Dam. The US fears a breach in its structure could end up flooding Baghdad, where the US embassy is situated.
"We will be vigilant and we will be relentless. When people harm Americans, anywhere, we do what's necessary to see that justice is done,“ Mr Obama said.
In messages on Twitter, media mogul Rupert Murdoch called for Isis to be wiped out.
“Isis can only be beaten by policy of elimination and even then with difficulty. This is historic war of barbarism versus civilization,” he said.
He said the recapture of the Mosul Dam by Kurdish and Iraqi forces backed by US air power was a “great cooperative effort”, but added that “further actions await Obama's decision”.
“Tough one but no real choice,” he said.