ISIS Pressed for Ransom Before Killing Journalist

Thursday, 21 Aug 2014 06:56 AM

By Elliot Jager

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American hostages taken by jihadist groups such as ISIS are held indefinitely or killed because U.S. policy is not to pay ransom to terrorists, The New York Times reported.

In killing photojournalist James Foley, ISIS, also known as the Islamic State, claimed that it was retaliating for recent U.S.  airstrikes against the group in Iraq. ISIS had been willing to trade Foley for a $100 million ransom, according to the Times, which cited a representative of the Foley family and a man who had been held alongside the journalist. The Times said the Foley family didn't respond to requests for comment.

There were other demands, including the release of Aafia Siddiqui, an American-trained Pakistani neuroscientist, the Times said.

In contrast to France, Spain and other European countries that pay jihadist groups to release their hostage citizens both the United States and Britain refuse to do so. The United States did attempt a commando operation to rescue Foley at an ISIS site but he was not there.

Foley was taken captive on Nov. 22, 2012 in Syria. He had been freelancing for the GlobalPost and AFP. In 2011, he had was taken captive by gunmen loyal to Muammar Qaddafi, the former Libyan ruler, and was released after 44 days. GlobalPost said it paid a security firm to help find him, the Times reported.

ISIS is holding three other U.S. hostages and threatening to kill freelance journalist Steven Sotloff. Foley's masked killer can be seen on a video holding Sotloff and threatening: "The life of this American citizen, Obama, depends on your next decision," the Times reported.

Foley is the second Western reporter to be executed by jihadists. In 2002, Wall Street Journal reported Daniel Pearl was also beheaded. Initially, Westerners were taken not for ransom but to be killed.

Later, kidnapping Europeans became the main source of al-Qaida revenue. In the last five years, over 50 foreigners have been grabbed by jihadist groups and they have collected $125 million in ransom, the Times reported.

Journalist David Rohde of Reuters, who was a Taliban hostage before escaping, called  on Western states to come up with a concerted policy on hostages.

"The payment of ransoms and abduction of foreigners must emerge from the shadows," Rohde wrote. "It must be publicly debated. American and European policy makers should be forced to answer for their actions."

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