Twisted tale of Foley rescue bidsComment on this story
Daily Mail, Sapa-AP and Staff Reporter
Johannesburg - Conflicting reports regarding efforts to rescue US lensman James Foley emerged on Thursday morning, with the US government saying they did all they could and his employers saying the opposite.
Foley was with Anton Hammerl when the South African photojournalist was shot in Libya in 2011.
And now the chief executive officer of the Boston-based media company GlobalPost, Philip Balboni, has suggested that the US government knew where Foley was being held captive, but failed to rescue him. He said that the GlobalPost had spent millions of dollars trying to rescue Foley from his Syrian captors, even hiring an international firm to discover his whereabouts.
The firm, which Balboni says he hired immediately upon Foley’s abduction in 2012, tracked him to Syria in September last year.
They followed him around the country, even though he was being transported to different sites.
Balboni said he was “fairly certain” the White House knew where Foley was too.
Foley helped raise money for Hammerl’s widow and children.
Late on Tuesday night, a YouTube video went viral, showing what appears to be Foley, 40, being beheaded by his Islamic State captors in Syria.
Among those grieving for him is Hammerl’s widow, Penny Sukhraj, who was supported by Foley in the wake of her husband’s death.
“Thinking of you tonight James Foley. Praying for God’s peace and love over beloved John and Diane Foley (his parents) and the rest of the family. All of our love, Penny, Neo and Hero xxx,” she wrote on Facebook.
Foley was travelling with Hammerl and two other journalists in Libya in 2011.
Foley was imprisoned in Libya with two other journalists for 44 days.
Journalist Clare Morgana Gillis, who was held with Foley, wrote in a 2012 essay that captivity was “the state most violently opposite (to Foley’s) nature”.
“Utter shock at the killing of freelancer James Foley,” Gillis tweeted.
The Free Photographer Anton Hammerl page, managed by South African journalist Anso Thom, wrote: “Thinking of you tonight James. We hope God gives you the peace you need at this time.”
Balboni also divulged during a press conference that he believed the US government had attempted to rescue Foley over the past 22 months, but said these missions obviously failed.
US President Barack Obama has said his government sent special operations troops to Syria on a secret mission to rescue American hostages, including Foley, held by Islamic State extremists, but that they could not find them.
Officials said the rescue mission was authorised after intelligence agencies believed that they had identified the location inside Syria where the hostages were being held. But the several dozen special operations forces did not find them and engaged in a firefight with Islamic State militants before departing.
“The US government had what we believed was sufficient intelligence, and when the opportunity presented itself, the president authorised the Department of Defence to move aggressively to recover our citizens,” said Lisa Monaco, Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser, in a statement.
“Unfortunately, that mission was ultimately not successful because the hostages were not present.”
The administration revealed the rescue operation a day after the militants released a video showing the beheading of Foley and threatened to kill a second hostage, Steven Sotloff, if US airstrikes against the militants in Iraq continued.
Despite the militants’ threats, the US launched a new barrage of airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on Wednesday.
The Obama administration did not rule out the prospect of a military operation in Syria to bring those responsible for Foley’s death to justice.
In a statement on Wednesday night, Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said: “As we have said repeatedly, the United States government is committed to the safety and well-being of its citizens, particularly those suffering in captivity.
“In this case, we put the best of the United States military in harm’s way to try and bring our citizens home.”