British Prime Minister David Cameron has said that the person involved in the beheading of US journalist James Foley looked “increasingly likely” to be a British citizen, though the man has not been identified.
“We have not identified the individual responsible on the video but from what we've seen it looks increasingly likely that it is a British citizen. Now this is deeply shocking,” Cameron told reporters on Wednesday.
James Foley was kidnapped in Syria at Thanksgiving in 2012 while working for the GlobalPost agency. In the video entitled 'A message to the US', the 40-year-old journalist denounces his country of birth with a knife to his neck through a speech presumably written by his captors – the Islamic State (IS, formerly known as ISIS) militants, who posted the video on YouTube.
At the end of the film, another US journalist who disappeared in August last year, Steven Joel Sotloff is paraded on camera as Foley’s killer states: “The life of this American citizen, Obama, depends on your next decision.”
The authenticity of the video was confirmed by the White House on Wednesday morning.
“We have reached the judgment that this video is authentic,” National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said.
Before Cameron made his statements, British media widely identified the speaker in the Islamic State video as speaking with a British accent.
The Daily Mail, Telegraph and Guardian all recognized the masked militant’s accent to be southern English, and intelligence agencies are reportedly attempting to ascertain the identity of the man.
UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond recognized the possibility and the potential danger in the situation on Wednesday.
“We're absolutely aware that there are significant numbers of British nationals involved in terrible crimes, probably in the commission of atrocities, making jihad with IS and other extremists organizations,” Hammond told the BBC.
“This is something we have been tracking and dealing with for many, many months and I don't think this video changes anything…it just heightens awareness of a situation which is very grave.”
On August 17, Cameron penned a strongly-worded article published in The Sunday Telegraph, stating that if the Islamic State grows stronger and creates a caliphate in the Middle East, the group would pose a threat to Europe.
Shiraz Maher, a senior research fellow at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR) at King's College London, said in an interview with BBC Radio 4's Today program on Wednesday that British fighters had been operating as suicide bombers and executioners.
"Foreign fighters going out to Syria are not going out there
to be backseat riders. They are going out to be full participants
in the war, to be at the forefront of the conflict," he
On the other hand, in his Wednesday remarks PM Cameron ruled out the possibility of immediate UK intervention in Iraq.
“I’ve been very clear this country is not going to get involved in another Iraq war,” he said. “We’re not going to put combat troops, combat boots on the ground.”