Obama urges joint effort to end jihadist 'cancer'

US President Barack Obama speaks about the US involvement in Iraq in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House on August 18, 2014
US President Barack Obama speaks about the US involvement in Iraq in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House on August 18, 2014 (AFP Photo/Saul Loeb )

Edgartown (United States) (AFP) - US President Barack Obama called for a joint effort to eliminate the "cancer" of jihadist terror in Iraq and Syria on Wednesday, after Islamic State militants murdered an American journalist.

Obama said the entire world was appalled by the beheading of 40-year-old reporter James Foley, which the IS fighters videotaped and published on the Internet.

"There has to be a common effort to extract this cancer so it does not spread. It has to be a clear rejection of these kind of nihilistic ideologies," Obama said.

"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," he pledged.

Obama praised Foley, a freelance reporter who contributed to GlobalPost, AFP and other outlets before being kidnapped two years ago, as a courageous journalist working in dangerous area and "bearing witness to the lives of people a world away."

But he made no mention of a second kidnapped US journalist, Steven Sotloff, who was shown alive in the video.

Saying Foley's execution was in reaction to the US air attacks on IS fighters, the group threatened to also kill Sotloff, saying whether it does or not depends on Obama's actions.

Before Obama spoke, the Pentagon confirmed a fresh round of strikes in northern Iraq, where Islamic State militants have expanded their territorial holdings and were threatening the Kurdish populations and the regional capital of Arbil.

"We continue to conduct strikes in Iraq," said spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby.

The US Central Command said US warplanes and drones conducted 14 air strikes against IS targets near the Mosul Dam in Iraq since Tuesday.

Obama condemned the Sunni extremist group as a threat to Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

"One thing we can all agree on is that a group like ISIL has no place in the 21st century," he said, using the acronym for the group when it was formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.

"They have rampaged across cities and villages, killing innocent, unarmed civilians in cowardly acts of violence. They abduct women and children and subject them to torture and rape and slavery. They have murdered Muslims, both Sunni and Shia, by the thousands."

"No faith teaches people to massacre innocents. No just god would stand for what they did yesterday and what they do every single day," Obama said.

"ISIL has no ideology. Their ideology is bankrupt."

He said he had spoken to the parents of Foley, and "told them we are all heartbroken at their loss."

"Jim was taken from us in an act of violence that shocks the conscience of the entire world."