BOSTON (CBSDC/AP) — The chief executive officer of a Boston-based news organization says James Foley’s kidnappers last week threatened to kill him in response to U.S. bombings in Iraq.
Foley was freelancing for GlobalPost when he disappeared in Syria. GlobalPost CEO Philip Balboni told reporters Wednesday that the threatening email sent to Foley’s family was “full of rage” but made no demands. He says the kidnappers ignored pleas for mercy.
Balboni says the company spent millions on efforts to bring Foley home, including hiring an international security firm.
The 40-year-old journalist from Rochester, New Hampshire, was beheaded by Islamic State militants. A video recording of the slaying was released Tuesday.
Foley was abducted in northern Syria in November 2012 and had not been heard from since.
The Obama administration revealed Wednesday that the president sent U.S. troops to Syria this summer on a secret mission to rescue Foley and other American hostages, but they did not find them.
FBI Director James Comey said Wednesday that ISIS extremists who executed Foley are “savages” who must be brought to justice.
Comey said his agency had been investigating Foley’s kidnapping for two years until Tuesday, when the militants released a video showing his beheading in Syria. They also threatened to kill a second hostage, Steven Sotloff, if U.S. airstrikes against the militants in Iraq continued.
“These savages have turned it into a homicide investigation,” Comey said, speaking to reporters during a visit to the FBI’s Denver field office. “I’m highly confident the U.S. government will bring justice to these people. We are very patient and dogged, and we will never forget.”
Comey wouldn’t say whether authorities have determined when the video of Foley’s killing was taken. But he said it underscores the urgent danger posed by the extremists in Syria, which he said has become a “safe haven and training ground” for terrorists from Western Europe, North America and elsewhere.
“Their going there is very worrisome. They will come out with the worst kind of relationships and the worst kind of training,” Comey said. Of the Islamic State extremists, he added, “We’re up against savages. These are people who make ordinary terrorists look civilized.”
Comey said he is concerned about homegrown “lone-wolf” terrorists who radicalize by using the Internet to connect with others interested in waging jihad. But he doesn’t think the Foley video will add to the problem. News outlets, YouTube and other websites have been largely sensitive and responsible with the footage, he said.
Those who want to join Islamic extremists fighting in Syria have plenty of other places to find inspiration while “in their pajamas, in their basements,” Comey said.
But partnerships with local law enforcement can help thwart those who wish to help foreign terrorist groups, he said. In April, the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force arrested a 19-year-old suburban Denver woman at Denver International Airport as she boarded the first leg of a flight that she hoped would ultimately get her to Syria. Authorities have said Shannon Conley was intent on waging jihad despite FBI agents’ overt and repeated efforts to stop her.
Flanked by police and prosecutors, Comey wouldn’t talk about the Conley case but said it is important for police to separate those with intent from those who are all talk.
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