Skip to main content

Britain close to identifying James Foley's killer, ambassador says

By Steve Almasy, CNN
updated 12:58 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Foley family releases letter written by the journalist while in captivity in June
  • British ambassador says voice identification technology is being used to ID killer
  • A video posted online shows the militant beheading James Foley
  • The militant speaks with what experts describe as an English accent

(CNN) -- British officials "are close" to identifying the ISIS militant who beheaded American journalist James Foley, according to Britain's ambassador to the United States, Peter Westmacott.

Westmacott told CNN's Candy Crowley on Sunday he couldn't elaborate on the identity of the killer, who is seen decapitating Foley in a video posted last week on YouTube.

"We're putting a great deal into the search," he said, referring to the use of sophisticated technology to analyze the man's voice.

In the video, Foley, 40, is seen kneeling next to a man dressed in black, who speaks with what experts say is a distinctly English accent.

James Foley 'smuggled' letters to family
Video holds clues to Foley's killer
Foley's family received chilling e-mails
Foley's parents 'underestimated' ISIS
CEO: European govts paid 4M for hostages

Linguists said that based on his voice, the man sounds to be younger than 30. He also appears to have been educated in England from a young age and to be from southern England or London.

Voice, words may provide clues about Foley's killer

The video shows another U.S. journalist, identified as Steven Sotloff, being held by ISIS. The militant warned that Sotloff's fate depends on what President Barack Obama does next in Iraq.

A day after the video was posted, Obama vowed the United States will be "relentless" in striking back against ISIS.

Airstrikes continued to hit ISIS targets near Irbil and the Mosul Dam on Sunday, U.S. Central Command said in a news release. The majority of the strikes have been in support of Iraqi forces near the dam, which briefly fell under ISIS control.

Mourners pack Foley's hometown church

Meanwhile Sunday, hundreds of mourners crammed into Foley's hometown church in New Hampshire to attend his memorial Mass.

"This moment in our lives is international in scope; crossing all boundaries, yet very personal," Bishop Peter A. Libasci said. "[We are] bound together by a deep sense of human compassion and heartfelt remorse."

Foley's parents, who received a standing ovation, asked for privacy and thanked mourners for their support.

Foley disappeared on November 22, 2012, in northwest Syria, near the border with Turkey. He was reportedly forced into a vehicle by gunmen; he was not heard from again. At the time of his disappearance, he was working as a freelancer for the U.S.-based online news outlet GlobalPost.

Who is James Foley's executioner?
The search for James Foley's killer
Freed hostage reflects on Foley
Obama: America does not forget

His family released a letter Sunday said to be written in June by Foley. Because his letters were confiscated in captivity, Foley's family said he asked another hostage set to be released to commit the letter to memory.

In the letter, Foley reflects on favorite family memories -- a trip to the mall with his father, a bike ride with his mom -- and gives details of his time in captivity.

Comfort from others being held

"Eighteen of us have been held together in one cell, which has helped me. We have had each other to have endless long conversations about movies, trivia, sports," Foley wrote, describing makeshift games of checkers, chess and Risk.

"The games and teaching each other have helped the time pass. They have been a huge help."

He had specific messages of love for his brothers and sister, and to his grandmother he told her, "please take your medicine, take walks and keep dancing."

By the time he wrote the letter, he had already been held captive for a year and half, and seemed to waver between remaining hopeful for his release, while also resigned to his fate. While addressing his brothers and sister, he gives specific wishes on who his money should go to and thanks them for "happy childhood memories." But he closes the letter by addressing his "Grammy."

"Stay strong," he told her, "because I am going to need your help to reclaim my life."

The following month, over the July 4 weekend, U.S. special operations units were sent into Syria to rescue Foley and other hostages held by Islamist militants, a U.S. official told CNN. Several dozen of the most elite U.S. commandos from Delta Force and Navy SEAL Team 6 flew in on helicopters but couldn't find the hostages, including Foley.

His captors recently sent an e-mail to his family threatening his death -- a message Philip Balboni, the CEO of GlobalPost, described as "vitriolic and filled with rage against the United States."

Foley's captors demanded 100 million euros ($132.5 million) in exchange for his release, Balboni told CNN last week.

READ: Brother: 'More ... could have been done' to save James Foley

READ: Former CIA chief: Matter of time before ISIS tries to attack West

READ: Opinion: Should we call ISIS 'evil'?

CNN's Joshua Berlinger contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
ISIS
updated 8:01 AM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
Put yourself in the shoes (and sixth-century black robes) of ISIS' Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the mysterious boss of the terror group.
updated 2:47 PM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
Former Kremlin adviser says Obama may be ready to deal with Putin on ISIS.
updated 7:18 PM EDT, Wed September 17, 2014
The owner of an upstate New York food store funded ISIS, tried to send jihadists to Syria and plotted to do some killing himself.
updated 7:44 AM EDT, Wed September 17, 2014
By producing the magazine, ISIS is taking a cue from al Qaeda, which has advocated terrorist attacks in its glossy publication, Inspire.
updated 2:47 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
After the beheading of another Western captive by ISIS, an international conference convened in Paris to talk about how to tackle the threat of ISIS.
updated 8:06 AM EDT, Mon September 15, 2014
The beheading of British aid worker David Haines by ISIS has intensified fears for other Western hostages being held by the jihadist group.
updated 12:20 PM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
The atrocious murder of David Haines puts the United Kingdom and in particular PM David Cameron front and center in the evolving battle against ISIS.
updated 5:19 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
CNN's Anna Coren is on the front lines with Kurdish Peshmerga forces as they fight ISIS in Northern Iraq.
updated 6:08 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
Deb Feyerick explores the lives & dossiers of ISIS & Al-Qaeda's top leaders.
updated 10:41 PM EDT, Mon September 15, 2014
The family of aid worker David Haines is speaking out about his brutal murder by ISIS militants. Nic Robertson reports.
updated 1:58 PM EDT, Wed September 17, 2014
These are the nations involved and what's known about their contributions.
updated 7:29 PM EDT, Sun September 14, 2014
Three brutal executions. Three horrifyingly similar scripts.
updated 8:53 AM EDT, Wed September 10, 2014
ISIS has captured the minds of a new generation of global jihadists. What does it mean for al Qaeda?
updated 10:53 PM EDT, Tue September 9, 2014
Is it ISIS, ISIL, Islamic State or Daiish?
Here's a look at some of the major instances in which the U.S. military took action against Islamist groups or international terrorism.
updated 11:34 AM EDT, Fri September 5, 2014
Tom Foreman examines what we donĀ¹t yet know about ISIS.
updated 1:23 PM EDT, Thu September 4, 2014
To the outside world, they're a force of ruthless yet mysterious insurgents bent on terrorizing civilians and expanding Islamic rule.
updated 4:21 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
ISIS has become the new face of international terrorism in the eyes of the United States and its Western allies.
updated 8:55 AM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
As its adversaries regroup, ISIS -- which now calls itself the Islamic State -- may begin to suffer setbacks on the battlefield.
updated 11:25 PM EDT, Thu June 12, 2014
Will ISIS be the first terror group to build an Islamic state?
A CNN interactive showing the presence of ISIS in the Middle East.
updated 3:25 PM EDT, Tue September 9, 2014
Jim Sciutto explains the similarities and differences between these Islamist jihadis.
ADVERTISEMENT