The militants who beheaded American journalist James Foley have “no place in the 21st century,” President Barack Obama said Wednesday in a forceful condemnation of the group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Obama said “the entire world is appalled by the brutal murder” of Foley. He pledged to continue airstrikes in Iraq if threats to American lives continue. Obama also said the U.S. would continue to combat the “hateful terrorism” of the group, which has made advances in parts of Syria and northern Iraq. ISIS launched as an offshoot of al-Qaeda, and the group seeks to impose Shria law on the region.
“The United States of America will continue to do what we must to protect our people,” Obama said in an address from Edgartown, Massachusetts, where he is on vacation. “We will be vigilant and we will be relentless.”
The U.S. military earlier this summer attempted to rescue American hostages being held in Syria by ISIS, but the mission failed, the Pentagon said Wednesday evening. The hostages weren’t found at the location U.S. forces targeted, Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said in a statement.
“The United States government uses the full breadth of our military, intelligence and diplomatic capabilities to bring people home whenever we can. The United States will not tolerate the abduction of our people, and will work tirelessly to secure the safety of our citizens and to hold their captors accountable,” Kirby said.
Foley was kidnapped in northwest Syria on Thanksgiving Day in 2012. He hadn’t been heard from since.
A gruesome video surfaced Tuesday claiming to depict the 40-year-old journalist’s decapitation at the hands of ISIS. National Security Council spokesperson Caitlin Hayden said in a statement the U.S. intelligence community verified that the video was authentic.
The video also showed another American journalist, Steven Sotloff, whose life a masked militant in the video threatened to take as well unless the United States halted airstrikes against ISIS targets in northern Iraq.
“The life of this American citizen, Obama, depends on your next decision,” the man said, clutching the back of Sotloff’s orange shirt.
The United States does not negotiate with terrorists nor does it pay ransoms to free American captives. But in his first on-camera interview Wednesday, Foley’s employer, Philip Balboni of Global Post, disclosed to msnbc that he had been involved in secret negotiations with ISIS for two years in an effort to get Foley released.
“We are so deeply sorry that we couldn’t bring Jim home safely,” Balboni told Andrea Mitchell. “We’re broken-hearted about it. But Jim was a man of incredible bravery and courage, and he showed that right to the very horrific end. I am in awe of the courage that he showed.”
Obama announced two weeks ago that he had authorized airstrikes in northern Iraq to protect thousands of Americans and the U.S. consulate in Erbil, the capital of the Kurdish semi-autonomous region, and to prevent the genocide of tens of thousands of religious minorities threatened by ISIS. The airstrikes, which began within hours of the president’s authorization, marked the U.S. military’s first direct operation in Iraq since leaving the country in 2011.
The State Department on Wednesday requested up to 300 additional military personnel be sent to Iraq, a senior U.S. official told NBC News. The U.S. has sent hundreds of military service members to Iraq as ISIS has made gains in the country.
According to NBC News, U.S. warplanes and drones launched at least 11 airstrikes Tuesday night against ISIS targets in Iraq. Wednesday morning, President Obama spoke with Foley’s parents.
“Jim Foley’s life stands in stark contrast to his killers,” Obama said in his address. “They abduct women and children, subject them to torture and rape and slavery. They’ve murdered Muslims – Sunni and Shia – by the thousands. They target Christians and religious minorities, driving them from their homes and murdering them when they can.”
“People like this ultimately fail,” he continued “They fail, because the future is won by those who build and not destroy, and the world is shaped by people like Jim Foley.”