A visibly angry President Barack Obama said Wednesday that the “entire world is appalled” by the beheading of an American journalist by the extremist group the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS or ISIL), casting the group as a relic that “has no place in the 21st century.”
“No just God would stand for what they did yesterday and what they do every single day,” Obama, who said he was “heartbroken” by Foley’s death, said during a statement from Martha’s Vineyard.
The White House’s National Security Council said Wednesday that the video released by the group, which has since been removed from YouTube, was authentic. The video showed a member of the group executing American journalist James Foley, who was kidnapped in Syria in 2012.
Obama spoke out harshly against ISIS. He compared the group to a “cancer” whose spread must be contained, saying it has and will continue to torture and kill civilians, massacre religious minorities, and rape women.
He contrasted the group with the life of Foley. People like Foley, he said, “shape the world.”
“People like [ISIS] ultimately fail. Because the future is won by those who build and not destroy,” Obama said.
In the video, ISIS also threatened to kill another American journalist it said it was holding captive — Steven Sotloff, who was kidnapped near the Syrian-Turkish border in August 2013. He had been freelancing for Time and other publications.
The group said it killed Foley as an act of revenge for U.S. intervention in Iraq. Obama authorised the U.S. military to conduct airstrikes in Iraq nearly two weeks ago in an attempt to aid Iraqi forces against the extremist militants.
Since then, according to the Pentagon, the U.S. has conducted more than 70 such strikes on targets including security checkpoints, vehicles, and weapons caches. The U.S. has not specified if any militants were killed in the strikes. It has said the vast majority of the strikes had been “successful.”
Obama did not specify on Wednesday if there would be any policy or strategy changes toward how the U.S. will approach and contain ISIS. He did say, however, that the U.S. would continue to remain “vigilant” and “relentless” in the face of threats by the group.
“The United State of America will continue to do what we must do to protect our people. We will be vigilant and we will be relentless,” Obama said.
During a news conference from the White House on Monday, Obama hailed the U.S.’ role in helping Iraqi and Kurdish forces retake the key strategic point of the Mosul Dam in northern Iraq. He said retaking the dam, which supplies electricity and water to much of Iraq, represented a “major step forward” in a battle against the militants.
The White House said Tuesday night that Obama had been briefed on the video while travelling on Air Force One. Obama returned to Martha’s Vineyard on Tuesday, where he has been vacationing for parts of the past two weeks. He returned to Washington briefly over the weekend for two days of meetings.
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