Update – 9/3/2014: On September 2, 2014, an ISIS video was released showing the beheading of a second American journalist, Steven Sotloff, again blaming U.S. policy in Iraq. A third individual, this time a citizen of Great Britain, was threatened at the conclusion of the video.
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), an Al Qaeda inspired terrorist group, released an English-language video in which it depicts the beheading of a kidnapped American journalist.
ISIS is claiming that it murdered the journalist, James Wright Foley, because of U.S. airstrikes in Iraq. The video closes with an image of another kidnapped journalist kneeling next to what appears to be the same executioner, who states “The life of this American citizen, Obama, depends on your next decision.”
The video is titled “A Message to America.” It marks a new approach by ISIS, making good on threats against Americans that the group only began circulating significantly this June. Such strategies have been used extensively by the terrorist group to intimidate enemies and opponents on the ground, but had not previously been employed against Westerners.
In the video, footage of President Obama announcing the airstrike campaign is followed by a statement by Foley in which he asserts U.S. actions are the cause of his death. Foley’s masked executioner then delivers an address in British-accented English in which he depicts the U.S. as an aggressor against ISIS and the Muslims who accept ISIS as a state, and says that any military action against ISIS will lead to more “bloodshed” of Americans. The executioner then beheads Foley. Afterward, the other kidnapped journalist is shown next to the executioner.
The release may improve ISIS’s recruitment capacity. ISIS broke with Al Qaeda Central in February, and the organizations compete for recruits, followers and influence. ISIS’s reputation for violent action surpassing Al Qaeda’s has already contributed to its recruitment efforts, and if this video is seen by extremists as a successful blow to the U.S. it may lead more to join ISIS.
The video was announced on Twitter and on the social media site Diaspora on August 19, and was linked from the Internet Archive website, an online “digital library” that is sometimes used by terrorist groups as a repository for online media storage.