Middle East

Foley's Murder By Islamist Militants Shocks World's Conscience, Obama Says

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President Obama says the civilized world is appalled by the tactics of those who killed journalist James Foley, and he urged people in the Middle East to resist the group's "bankrupt ideology."


U.S. warplanes are continuing to hammer at militant positions in northern Iraq. There has been no letup in the aerial assaults since the militants released a video this week showing the grisly murder of an American journalist and threatening to kill another reporter if the airstrikes continue. President Obama says the civilized world is appalled by the tactics of the militants. And he urged people throughout the Middle East to resist what he calls their bankrupted ideology. Here's NPR White House correspondent Scott Horsley.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: President Obama says the murder of American journalist Jim Foley shocks the conscience of the entire world. Foley was reporting on the civil war in Syria when he was kidnapped nearly two years ago. Obama said the reporter's courage and his willingness to bear witness to the suffering of others stands in stark contrast to the militants from the Islamic State who murdered him.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Let's be clear about ISIS. They have rampaged across cities and villages, killing innocent unarmed civilians in cowardly acts of violence.

HORSLEY: On Tuesday, the militants released a video showing the gruesome execution of Foley, an apparent retaliation for U.S. airstrikes in Iraq. The video characterized those airstrikes as part of a U.S. assault on Muslims. But Obama says the battle is really between the civilized world and what he calls the empty vision of the militants.

OBAMA: ISIL speaks for no religion. Their victims are overwhelmingly Muslim, and no faith teaches people to massacre innocents. No just God would stand for what they did yesterday and what they do every single day.

HORSLEY: The president telephoned Foley's parents to express his condolences, saying Americans are heartbroken by their loss. Diane and John Foley spoke to reporters outside their home in New Hampshire, saying they appreciate the outpouring of prayers for their son. They added that Jim Foley never gave into bitterness.


DIANE FOLEY: He was strong, courageous, loving to the end. I mean, we just highly recognize our little boy. I mean, he just - he was just a hero, you know?

JOHN FOLEY: And you know from the videos, his last words were, I wish I had more time.

HORSLEY: Earlier this summer, the U.S. military tried, in vain, to rescue Foley and other American hostages. Special Forces were dropped by aircraft inside Syria, where intelligence experts believed the hostages were being held. Despite a firefight with militants, though, the hostages were not located and the rescue mission was unsuccessful. In a defiant statement yesterday, Obama vowed to bring the killers to justice.

OBAMA: United States of America will continue to do what we must do to protect our people. We will be vigilant, and we will be relentless.

HORSLEY: Now other Western governments are pitching in. Germany announced plans to ship weapons to Kurdish fighters battling the Islamic State. And Italy's defense minister said her country hopes to do the same. British Prime Minister David Cameron cut short his vacation to attend a meeting on the Islamic State threat. British intelligence agencies are trying to identify the killer shown in the video. The man speaks with a British accent. Backed by American air power, Kurdish and Iraqi forces showed rare cooperation in recent days, recapturing the Mosul Dam seized by militants earlier this month. Obama's been pressing for a more inclusive government in Iraq that would unite the various factions there in the fight against the Islamic State. Yesterday, Obama issued a similar challenge to Iraq's sometimes divided neighbors. One thing we can all agree on, he said, is that a group like ISIL has no place in the 21st century.

OBAMA: From governments and peoples across the Middle East, there has to be a common effort to extract this cancer so that it does not spread. There has to be a clear rejection of these kind of nihilistic ideologies.

HORSLEY: Obama says the U.S. and its allies will continue to confront what he called hateful terrorism and replace it with the kind of hope and civility that journalist Jim Foley stood for. The president eulogized Foley as a man who lived his work and courageously told the stories of his fellow human beings. Scott Horsley, NPR News, Washington.

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