Not long after Obama called Islamic State a “cancer” with a bankrupt ideology, the Pentagon said U.S. aircraft conducted 14 air strikes in the vicinity of Iraq’s Mosul Dam, destroying or damaging militants’ Humvees, trucks and explosives.
Islamic State posted a video on Tuesday that purported to show the beheading of journalist James Foley in revenge for U.S. air strikes in Iraq. It prompted widespread horror that could push Western powers into further action against the group.
Britain’s prime minister cut short his vacation as UK intelligence tried to identify Foley’s killer, while France called for international coordination against the Islamist militants fighting in Syria and Iraq.
U.S. officials said on Wednesday that intelligence analysts had concluded that the Islamic State video, titled “A Message to America,” was authentic. It also showed images of another U.S. journalist, Steven Sotloff, whose fate the group said depends on how the United States acts in Iraq.
Obama called the beheading of Foley “an act of violence that shocked the conscience of the entire world” and said the militants had killed innocent civilians, subjected women and children to torture, rape and slavery and targeted Muslims, Christians and religious minorities.
“So ISIL speaks for no religion. Their victims are overwhelmingly Muslim, and 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 in brief comments to reporters in Edgartown, Massachusetts, where he has been vacationing. He said he had spoken with Foley’s family.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States would “never back down in the face of such evil.
“ISIL and the wickedness it represents must be destroyed, and those responsible for this heinous, vicious atrocity will be held accountable,” Kerry said in a statement.
Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said he was not surprised to hear the British accent and that large numbers of British nationals were fighting in Iraq and Syria.
“Our intelligence services will be looking very carefully on both sides of the Atlantic at this video to establish its authenticity, to try to identify the individual concerned and then we will work together to try to locate him,” Hammond told Sky news.
France said it wanted the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and regional countries, including Arab states and Iran, to coordinate action against Islamic State. President Francois Hollande called for an international conference to discuss how to tackle the group.
Germany and Italy said they were ready to send arms to bolster the military capabilities of Iraqi Kurds fighting Islamic State in northern Iraq. Sending arms into conflict zones is a major departure for Germany, which has often shied away from direct involvement in military conflicts since World War Two due to its Nazi past.
Foley, 40, was kidnapped on Nov. 22, 2012, in northern Syria, according to GlobalPost. He had earlier been kidnapped and released in Libya.
Sotloff, who appeared at the end of the video, went missing in northern Syria while reporting in July 2013. He has written for TIME among other news organizations.
On Facebook, Foley’s mother, Diane Foley, said: “We have never been prouder of our son Jim. 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.”
The video was posted after the United States resumed air strikes in Iraq this month for the first time since the end of the U.S. occupation in 2011.
U.S. Senator John McCain, a Republican, said Foley’s death should serve as a turning point for Obama in his deliberations over how to deal with Islamic State. “First of all, you’ve got to dramatically increase the air strikes. And those air strikes have to be devoted to Syria as well,” McCain said in a telephone interview.
Islamic State, which has declared a caliphate in the parts of Iraq and Syria it controls, opened the video with a clip of Obama saying he had authorized strikes in Iraq.
University of Virginia political scholar Larry Sabato said the killing was like the beheading of American journalist Daniel Pearl in Pakistan in 2002. He said it could help bolster a perception among Americans that the United States will have to be more aggressive in dealing with Islamic State militants.
Syria has been the most dangerous country for journalists for more than two years. At least 69 other journalists have been killed covering the conflict there and more than 80 journalists have been kidnapped in Syria.
The U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists estimates that approximately 20 journalists are currently missing in Syria. Many of them are believed to be held by Islamic State.
As well as taking territory, Islamic State has seized a number of oil wells in northern Iraq. The government in Baghdad said it was troubled by reports that Islamic State was smuggling oil to export markets and warned that the purchase of such supplies could help the group fund its operations.