Cape Town - He was with Anton Hammerl when the South African photojournalist was gunned down in Libya. He would go on to help raise money for Hammerl’s widow and children.
But now, the family of US lensman James Foley have their own grief to bear after a video emerged late on Tuesday night showing what appears to be Foley being beheaded by his Islamic State terrorist captors in Syria.
The footage dashed hopes that Foley, 40, could walk out of the war-torn country alive after being captured almost two years ago.
Among the grieving 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 had been travelling with Hammerl and two other journalists in Libya in 2011. He watched as Hammerl was shot and killed, an experience he would later say had affected him severely.
He was imprisoned in Libya, along with two other journalists.
Journalist Clare Morgana Gillis, who was held captive with Foley, wrote in a 2012 essay that captivity was “the state most violently opposite (Foley’s) nature”.
He was held for 44 days.
“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.”
In the video, titled A Message to America, which was posted on social media on Tuesday, black-and-white aerial footage of air strikes is shown with the caption “American aggression against the Islamic State”.
This cuts to a man, identified as James Foley, wearing an orange outfit, kneeling in the desert. A masked man in black stands beside him, holding a knife.
“I call on my friends family and loved ones to rise up against my real killers, the US government, for what will happen to me is only a result of their complacency and criminality,” the kneeling man says.
The masked man, speaking with a British accent, says: “This is James Wright Foley, an American citizen, of your country. As a government, you have been at the forefront of the aggression towards the Islamic State.”
Following his statement he beheads the kneeling man.
At the end of the video, words on the side of the screen say “Steven Joel Sotloff” as another prisoner in an orange jumpsuit is shown. Sotloff is a freelancer journalist for Time Magazine, who was kidnapped in northern Syria last year
Foley was kidnapped by unidentified gunmen on November 22, 2012, when he was covering the escalating violence in Syria.
In a statement on Facebook, Foley’s mother Diane wrote: “We have never been prouder of our son Jim. He gave his life trying to expose the world to the suffering of the Syrian people.
“We implore the kidnappers to spare the lives of the remaining hostages. Like Jim, they are innocents,” she said.
“We thank Jim for all the joy he gave us,” Foley’s mother concluded. “He was an extraordinary son, brother, journalist and person. Please respect our privacy in the days ahead as we mourn and cherish Jim.”
At the time of publication the White House was still trying to verify the authenticity of the clip.
There has been an outcry on social media after the clip was retweeted by users supposedly linked to Isis.
“Full video of execution of James Foley. Search, enjoy and spread :D,” wrote @truthsmaster, a self-titled “terrorist since birth”.