Aug. 21: Kneeling in the dirt in a desert somewhere in West Asia, James Foley lost his life this week at the hands of the Islamic State. Before pulling out the knife used to decapitate him, his masked executioner explained that he was killing the 40-year-old American journalist in retaliation for the recent US air strikes against the terror group.
In fact, until recently, the group had a very different list of demands for Foley: The group pressed the US to provide a multimillion-dollar ransom for his release, according to a representative of his family and a former hostage held alongside him. The United States — unlike several European countries that have funnelled millions to the terror group to spare the lives of their citizens — refused to pay.
Sensitive to growing criticism that it had not done enough, the White House yesterday revealed that a United States Special Operations team tried and failed to rescue Foley.
The policy of not making concessions to terrorists and not paying ransoms has put the United States and Britain at odds with other European allies, which have routinely paid significant sums to win the release of their citizens .
Kidnapping Europeans has become the main source of revenue for al Qaida, which have earned at least $125 million in ransom payments in the past five years, according to a probe by The Times.