Islamic State militants released a video on Tuesday purporting to show the beheading of American journalist James Wright Foley, who has been missing since he was kidnapped in northwest Syria on November 22, 2012. Foley was abducted by unknown gunmen outside a cafe in Binesh, along with his translator, who was later released.
Another captive is shown at the end of the video. He is identified as Steven Sotloff, an American journalist who has been missing since August 2013.
"We know that many of you are looking for confirmation or answers," said a message posted on the Free James Foley Facebook page shortly after the video emerged in the afternoon. "Please be patient until we all have more information, and keep the Foleys in your thoughts and prayers."
US officials are working to verify the video. Late Tuesday evening, a message from Foley's mother was posted on Facebook acknowledging his death:
"We have never been prouder of our son Jim. He gave his life trying to expose the world to the suffering of the Syrian people. We implore the kidnappers to spare the lives of the remaining hostages. Like Jim, they are innocents. They have no control over American government policy in Iraq, Syria or anywhere in the world. We thank Jim for all the joy he gave us. He was an extraordinary son, brother, journalist and person. Please respect our privacy in the days ahead as we mourn and cherish Jim."
The video and images were released on Twitter by user @mujahid4life. The account has since been suspended.
"We have seen a video that purports to be the murder of US citizen James Foley by ISIL," Caitlin Hayden, a spokesperson for the White House National Security Council, said in a statement. "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."
A freelancer known for his work covering conflict in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and Libya, Foley had contributed work to GlobalPost, Agence France-Presse, and various other outlets. In 2011, he was kidnapped and held by pro-Qaddafi forces in Libya before being released after 45 days.
"Captivity is the state most violently opposite his nature," his friend Clare Morgana Gillis, a journalist who had been kidnapped with him in Libya in 2011, wrote in a piece last year for Syria Deeply. "But when we were detained in Tripoli, Jim automatically turned his energies to keeping up our strength and hope."
In the video, the man identified as Foley delivers what appears to be a prepared statement.
"I call on my friends, family, and loved ones to rise up against my real killers, the US government," he says. "For what will happen to me is only a result of their complacency and criminality."
He goes on to decry the American aerial operation in Iraq, and ends by saying, "I wish I could have the hope of freedom and seeing my family once again. But that ship has sailed. I guess all in all I wish I wasn't American."
A masked militant attired in black stands beside him.
"This is James Wright Foley, an American citizen of your country," the militant says, brandishing a knife in his left hand. "As a government, you have been at the forefront of the aggression towards the Islamic State. You have plotted against us and gone far out of your way to find reasons to interfere in our affairs. Today your military air force is attacking us daily in Iraq. Your strikes have caused casualties amongst Muslims. You are 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 an aggression towards Muslims from all walks of life who have accepted the Islamic caliphate as their leadership. So 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 video then shows the militant begin to cut the man's throat with the knife before fading to black, followed by a graphic image of his body.
The militant then appears standing beside the man identified as Sotloff.
"The life of this American citizen, Obama, depends on your next decision," he says.