Journalist beheading: US defends refusal to pay ransom to kidnappers

Written by: IANS
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US defends policy of no negotiations
Washington, Aug 22:  Amid the shock and horror of American photojournalist James Foley's beheading and revelations that his captors had demanded a ransom of $132 million, the US has defended its policy of no negotiations with terrorists.

US policy on ransom for hostage takers is clear, National Security Council spokesperson Caitlin Hayden told CNN on Thursday as an official with GlobalPost, the US-based online publication Foley was working for at the time of his abduction in Syria in 2012 revealed the ransom demand.

US "does not grant concessions to hostage takers," she said as "Doing so would only put more Americans at risk of being taken captive."

Hayden said last year the Obama administration, in conjunction with Britain, built a consensus for a strong policy statement against paying ransom from a Group of Eight summit saying "We unequivocally reject the payment of ransom to terrorists".

US State Department spokesperson Marie Harf also made a similar statement. "We believe that paying ransoms or making concessions would put all Americans overseas at greater risk" and would provide funding for groups whose capabilities "we are trying to degrade."

Harf also suggested during Thursday's media briefing that it is illegal for any American citizen to pay ransom to a group, such as the Islamic State, that the US government has designated as a terrorist organization.

GlobalPost "never took the 100 million seriously" because ransoms paid for other hostages being held by the Islamic State terrorist group were "dramatically less," Philip Balboni, president and chief executive of news agency, told CNN.

US: We unequivocally reject the payment of ransom to terrorists

There was never any true negotiation between the news outlet and Foley's captors, Balboni said, saying that ISIS simply made demands.

The video of Foley's execution was posted online on Tuesday. In it, the executioner, dressed in black, with his face covered, warned the life of another American journalist-believed to be Steven Sotloff-hangs in the balance.

The militant in the video, who speaks English with what sounds like a British accent, said the fate of the journalist depends on whether the United States ends its military operations in Iraq.

The US was so concerned about the fate of Foley and that of other American hostages held by ISIS that it attempted a rescue in Syria during the July 4 holiday weekend, officials cited by CNN said.

Several dozen US commandos landed just outside the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa, where US intelligence indicated the hostages were being held, a US official with direct knowledge of the operation told the channel.

The commandos-with the US Army Delta Force and the Navy's Seal Team Six-landed in the dark, and then made their way on foot to an abandoned oil refinery where the hostages were believed to be located, officials said.

When they arrived at the building, there was no sign of Foley or the other hostages, they said.

Meanwhile, the New York Times in an editorial titled "Death by Terror" said: "Seizing hostages for revenge, to terrorise, to make a political statement or to exact ransom has become a standard weapon in the arsenal of terrorists, leaving no journalist, humanitarian worker or traveller in a conflict zone immune."

Noting that "The United States and Britain refuse to pay ransoms, and there is evidence that hostage takers target victims based on the potential for a payout, " the Times suggested that "If everyone refused to pay, terrorists might not have had the incentive to turn kidnapping into an industry."


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