A gruesome video released Tuesday shows an Islamist fighter beheading a U.S. freelance photographer who was kidnapped in Syria nearly two years ago. The government confirmed the video's authenticity.
The video, posted by the media arm of the Islamic State and titled "A Message to America," says James Wright Foley was executed "in Iraq" as a result of President Obama's decision to bomb Islamic State fighters battling Kurdish forces north of Baghdad.
The video, in Arabic with English narration and subtitles, concludes with another missing U.S. journalist, Steven Joel Sotloff of Miami, and tells Obama his life "depends on your next decision."
The President was briefed by Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes about the video while on Air Force One, said Principal Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz.
Foley's mother posted a message on Facebook where she called her son "extraordinary."
"We have never been prouder of our son Jim," she wrote. "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."
Foley, who worked for several news outlets, including GlobalPost and AFP, was kidnapped Thanksgiving Day 2012 with his translator after leaving an Internet cafe in Binesh, in northern Syria. The FBI said that Foley was planning to cross the border into Turkey and that the two were grabbed by "an organized gang," which later released the translator.
Foley is one of an estimated 30 journalists missing in that country's nearly 3-year-old civil war.
The screen then shows a black-clad and masked militant standing next to a shaved-head man, who is kneeling in the desert dressed in an orange prison jumpsuit with his hands behind his back.
The captive then delivers a statement, which appears to be scripted, in which he criticizes U.S. policy in Iraq and says he is being killed because of the airstrikes on Islamic State fighters.
"My message to my beloved parents: Save me some dignity and don't accept any meager compensation for my death from the same people who effectively hammered the last nail in my coffin with their recent aerial campaign in Iraq," he says.
He then addresses his brother, John, who he says is in the U.S. Air Force, asking him to "think about what you are doing," saying the decision to bomb "signed my death warrant."
In a statement on its Facebook page, Foley's family said, "We know that many of you are looking for confirmation or answers. Please be patient until we all have more information, and keep the Foleys in your thoughts and prayers."
The family had created a site that appealed for his release.
The founder and CEO of Boston-based GlobalPost, Philip Balboni, issued a statementon behalf of Foley's parents and the news organization that "we deeply appreciate all of the messages of sympathy and support that have poured in since the news of Jim's possible execution first broke."
He added that GlobalPost would not comment further until the FBI confirms the video's authenticity. "We ask for your prayers for Jim and his family," Balboni said.
The family of another kidnapped American freelance photographer, Austin Tice, said in a statement that the "last 635 days, we have had to share a horrible nightmare, which has made us close to the Foley family and our heart goes out to them. We pray eternal rest for James' soul and comfort and peace for his family."
Tice, from Plano, Texas, was abducted outside Damascus, on Aug. 13, 2012, after illegally entering Syria from Turkey. At the time, the State Department believed that the government of President Bashar al-Assad was holding the 31-year-old former Marine, who had worked for The Washington Post, CBS News and McClatchy Newspapers.