8:01 pm - Tuesday July 16, 2019

James Foley beheading: Hunt on for ‘British’ jihadist

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UK police and security services are attempting to identify a suspected British jihadist who appeared in footage of the killing of a US journalist.

Extremist group Islamic State (IS) published a video of the moments before and after James Foley was beheaded.

Unconfirmed reports suggest the man in the video – who has an English accent – is from London or the South East.

Mr Foley, 40, had been missing since he was seized in Syria in 2012.

‘Huge problems’
Prime Minister David Cameron said it looked “increasingly likely” the man thought to be involved in the killing was British, but that it was “not a time for a knee-jerk reaction”.

Mr Cameron – who broke off from his holiday on Wednesday – is to return to Cornwall but will continue to take calls and briefings, Downing Street said.The Metropolitan Police has warned that “viewing, downloading or disseminating” the video might be an offence under terrorism laws.

Meanwhile, officials have said the US launched an unsuccessful mission to try to free Mr Foley and other American hostages in Syria.

BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner said the man in the video was thought to have travelled to Syria in the last three years. There were unconfirmed reports that he was in a small group of Britons tasked with guarding IS hostages, he added.

The Guardian said the man was thought to be the leader of a group of British fighters based in Syria. The paper said he called himself “John” and was believed to be from London.

Former MI6 director of global counter-terrorism Richard Barrett told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme he believed the man would be traced, but there would be “huge problems involved” with bringing him to justice.

He added: “There are courses of action that can be taken and once he is identified then that course of action becomes a lot clearer.”

The video footage of Mr Foley, titled A Message to America, shows the journalist wearing an orange jumpsuit, kneeling in desert-like terrain beside an armed man dressed in black.

The masked militant, who identifies himself as an IS member, says the journalist’s death is in retaliation for US attacks on IS in Iraq.

‘Remove passports’
After he speaks, the militant appears to start cutting at his captive’s neck before the video fades to black.

Mr Foley’s body is then seen on the ground.

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