President Barack Obama on Wednesday declared himself “heartbroken” by the beheading of U.S. journalist Jim Foley by ISIL extremists but defiantly vowed to press on with American military operations to cut the group’s “cancer” out of the Middle East.
“Jim was taken from us in an act of violence that shocks the conscience of the entire world,” the president said from the makeshift workspace for media covering his Martha’s Vineyard vacation.
Obama said he had spoken to Foley’s parents and told them “we are all heartbroken at their loss and join them in honoring Jim and all that he did.”
His remarks came a day after the release online of a stomach-turning video showing a black-masked jihadi fighter from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) beheading Foley in retaliation for U.S. airstrikes against the group in Iraq. The video also warned that the extremists would murder American journalist Steven Joel Sotloff if Obama did not halt the bombardments.
“The 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. When people harm Americans anywhere, we do what’s necessary to see that justice is done and we act against ISIL standing alongside others,” Obama said.
The president also had a direct message to American allies in the Gulf region that have reportedly been funding and arming ISIL to fight forces loyal to Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad.
“From governments and peoples across the Middle East, there has to be a common effort to extract this cancer so it does not spread,” he underlined. “A group like ISIL has no place in the 21st century.”
Obama spoke shortly after the National Security Council disclosed that American intelligence officials had confirmed the authenticity of the video.
Across the Atlantic, British officials were scrambling to identify Foley’s masked killer, who spoke in English with what sounded like a British accent.
British Prime Minister David Cameron cut short his vacation to discuss the situation in person with top aides, and his office called the reporter’s slaying “shocking and depraved.”
It was not the first time that extremists claiming to champion Islam killed an American journalist. In February 2002, a Pakistani group released a video showing the beheading of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.
A day after the release of that video, then-President George W. Bush spoke out during a trip to China, saying all Americans were “sad and angry.”
“Those who would threaten Americans, those who would engage in criminal, barbaric acts, need to know that these crimes only hurt their cause and only deepen the resolve of the United States of America to rid to world of these agents of terror,” Bush said.