James Foley was an American conflict reporter who went missing in Syria almost two years ago. On Tuesday, August 19, a video of Foley surfaced. The video, apparently produced by ISIS as a warning to the US to stop airstrikes against the group in Iraq, ended with Foley’s death.
On September 2, ISIS released a video showing the execution of a second American journalist, Steven Sotloff.
Foley first went missing in November 2012. He was last seen alive in Aleppo, Syria, where he was covering the Syrian civil war. It wasn’t clear where he had gone or who had taken him. At that point in the conflict, ISIS had not yet formed. Nor was this the first time Foley was kidnapped: He had also been abducted in 2011 while covering the Libyan civil war.
For a long time, Foley’s location was unknown. In May 2013, his family and friends believed they had tracked him to a Syrian government jail. The video of his death isn’t clear on location. Titled “A Message to #America (from the #IslamicState),” the video depicts a British-accented ISIS militant forcing Foley to condemn America before beheading him.
Afterward, ISIS displayed a man it claimed was another missing American journalist, Steven Sotloff. It threatened to kill him if the US didn’t stop bombing ISIS in Iraq. And on September 2, ISIS released video proof that it had followed through on the threat and executed Sotloff.
Sotloff, like Foley, was an experienced Middle East correspondent, having filed from Bahrain, Egypt, Turkey, Libya, and Syria. According to the New York Times, Sotloff’s family had attempted to keep his disappearance quiet, but Sotloff’s appearance in the Foley video forced their hands. Sotloff’s mother Shirley Sotloff released a video, a personal plea to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, asking him to spare her son’s life:
Foley and Sotloff’s murders did not end the American air campaign. If anything, they effectively galvanized American public opinion against ISIS, helping pave the way politically for Obama’s September announcement of a campaign to destroy ISIS.