According to Reuters, the US military earlier this summer carried out an attempt to rescue journalist James Foley and other American hostages held in Syria, a US official said on Wednesday, in an operation that the Pentagon said ultimately failed to locate the US captives.
Foley, 40, who was beheaded by an IS militant speaking in a British accent in a video that surfaced on the Internet on Tuesday (August 19). President Barack Obama expressed revulsion on Wednesday (August 20) at the execution and vowed the United States would do what it must to protect its citizens.
The unsuccessful rescue operation "involved air and ground components and was focused on a particular captor network within IS," the Pentagon said in a statement. "Unfortunately, the mission was not successful because the hostages were not present at the targeted location."
Obama authorized the mission "earlier this summer," Lisa Monaco, Obama's top counterterrorism aide, said in a separate statement. "The President authorized action at this time because it was the national security team’s assessment that these hostages were in danger with each passing day in custody," she said.
COMMENT: British PM David Cameron cut short his vacation as British intelligence attempted to identify Foley's executioner, while France called for international coordination against the Islamist militants fighting in Syria and Iraq.
US officials said on Wednesday that intelligence analysts had concluded that the IS video, entitled "A Message to America," was authentic. It also showed images of another US journalist, Steven Sotloff, whose fate the group said depends on how the United States acts in Iraq.
The gruesome video presented Obama with bleak options that could define US involvement in Iraq and the public reaction to it, potentially dragging him further into a conflict he built much of his presidency on ending.
Obama called the beheading of Foley "an act of violence that shocked the conscience of the entire world" and said the militants had killed innocent civilians, subjected women and children to torture, rape and slavery and targeted Muslims, Christians and religious minorities.
British anti-terrorist police began an investigation of the video, in which Foley's killer spoke with a London accent.
Possibly a British national, the is just one of hundreds of European Muslims drawn to join IS, who authorities say pose a security threat to US and European interests if they return home from the Middle East.
The video showed a high level of technical proficiency and the use of a British voice may have been intended to make its contents clear to audiences in the US.
Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said he was not surprised to hear the British accent and that large numbers of British nationals were fighting in Iraq and Syria.
"Our intelligence services will be looking very carefully on both sides of the Atlantic at this video to establish its authenticity, to try to identify the individual concerned and then we will work together to try to locate him," Hammond told SKY NEWS.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned "the horrific murder of journalist James Foley, an abominable crime that underscores the campaign of terror ISIL continues to wage against the people of Iraq and Syria," UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.
Germany and Italy said they were ready to send arms to bolster the military capabilities of Iraqi Kurds fighting Islamic State in northern Iraq.
Sending arms into conflict zones is a major departure for Germany, which has often shied away from direct involvement in military conflicts since World War II due to its Nazi past.
The video's message was unambiguous, warning of greater retaliation to come against Americans following nearly two weeks of US airstrikes that have pounded militant positions and halted the advance of IS, which until this month had captured a third of Iraq with little resistance.
Foley was kidnapped on November 22, 2012, in northern Syria, according to GLOBALPOST.
Sotloff, who appeared at the end of the video, went missing in northern Syria while reporting in July 2013. He has written for TIME among other news organizations.
On Facebook, Foley's mother, Diane Foley, said: "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."
US Senator John McCain (R-AZ) said Foley's death should serve as a turning point for Obama in his deliberations over how to deal with IS. "First of all, you've got to dramatically increase the airstrikes. And those air strikes have to be devoted to Syria as well," McCain said in a telephone interview.
IS, which has declared a caliphate in the parts of Iraq and Syria it controls, opened the video with a clip of Obama saying he had authorized strikes in Iraq.
A man identified as Foley, head shaven and dressed in an orange outfit similar to uniforms worn by prisoners at the US detention camp in Guantanamo Bay, is seen kneeling in the desert next to a man holding a knife and clad head to toe in black.
Following his statement, the executioner beheads the kneeling man. At the end of the video, words on the side of the screen say, "Steven Joel Sotloff," as another prisoner in an orange jumpsuit is shown on screen. "The life of this American citizen, Obama, depends on your next decision," the masked executioner says.
Syria has been the most dangerous country for journalists for more than two years. At least 69 other journalists have been killed covering the conflict there and more than 80 journalists have been kidnapped in Syria.
The US-based Committee to Protect Journalists estimates that about 20 journalists are currently missing in Syria. Many of them are believed to be held by IS.