US journalist who wanted to build bridge to Muslim world beheaded by Islamic State

Islamic extremists threaten to kill second US journalist held captive

Thu, Aug 21, 2014, 01:00

James Foley, the US photojournalist who has been beheaded by the so-called Islamic State, was an avid reader of the Koran who wanted to promote dialogue between Christians and Muslims, says his former fellow hostage, the French journalist Nicolas Hénin.

Hénin was freed on April 19th with three other French hostages after 10 months in captivity in Raqqa, the Islamic State’s stronghold in northern Syria. The Frenchmen were held with Foley for the last seven months of their imprisonment.

“It’s completely ironic,” Hénin said yesterday, hours after the Islamic State posted a five-minute video of the grisly execution of Foley online.

“James got hold of a Koran in English and he was fascinated by it. There were times he read it without interruption.”

When the hostages talked of their plans for the future, Foley joked that he ought to change professions. “After being taken hostage twice, he said his career as a reporter was obviously jinxed,” Hénin recalled.

Foley had been captured by Libyan troops and held for 44 days in 2011.

Foley was on assignment for Boston-based website Global Post and the Agence France-Presse when he was taken hostage at a checkpoint in northern Syria in November 2012.

Dialogue between civilisations “He said that when he was free, he would apply to the Committee to Protect Journalists, or commit himself to the dialogue between civilisations,” Hénin continued. “He was exasperated by widespread Islamophobia, and he wanted to build bridges between the Christian and Muslim worlds.”

YouTube removed the Islamic State video after a Twitter campaign with the hashtag #ISISmediablackout urged people not to watch it, suggesting that they instead share photos of Foley before he was kidnapped.

The Islamic State video is titled “A Message to America” and shows Foley on his knees, head shaven and hands tied behind his back, in an orange jumpsuit like those worn by the Muslim prisoners of Guantánamo. A hooded Islamic State militant, dressed in black, stands beside him in the desert, wielding a knife.

With a microphone clipped to his orange jumpsuit, Foley then recites 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, for what will happen to me is only a result of their complacency and criminality,” he says.

Foley then addresses his brother John, described as a member of the US air force. “Think about what you are doing,” he says. “Think of the lives you’re destroying, including those of your own family. I ask you John: think of those who recently decided to bomb Iraq. Did they think of me, of you or of our family when they decided to do that?”