Updated: ISIS executes Medill alum James Foley, U.S. officials confirm

Tyler Pager and Rebecca Savransky

Medill alumnus James Foley, an American photojournalist, was beheaded by ISIS, U.S. officials confirmed Wednesday.

The execution was videotaped and posted on YouTube on Tuesday. The authenticity of the video was confirmed in a statement by National Security Council spokesperson Caitlin Hayden.

Foley (Medill ‘08) was captured in Syria in November 2012 and has been missing for a total of 636 days as of Tuesday, according to FreeJamesFoley.org.

The graphic video that circulated on social media Tuesday shows Foley and his executor giving statements prior to the execution.

Diane Foley, the mother of James Foley, released a statement Tuesday night commending her son for the work he has done and the person he was.

“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,” Diane Foley wrote in a message posted on Facebook. “We thank Jim for all the joy he gave us. He was an extraordinary son, brother, journalist and person.”

Diane Foley also urged the kidnappers to spare the lives of other hostages.

Medill Dean Brad Hamm said in a statement the Medill community is shocked and saddened by the reports of James Foley’s death.

“Journalists face threats in many forms as they try to report difficult stories that need to be told, but the attack on Jim was barbaric,” Hamm wrote. “It was, in a larger sense, an attack on freedoms necessary in a civilized society and across strained cultures. Jim endures for us as a beacon reminding us of the risks implicit in shedding light where inhumanity can take hold.”

In the video showing his execution, Foley calls on his brother, a member of the U.S. Air Force, to address America’s actions and the effects of those actions on people’s lives. He says he wishes he wasn’t an American.

Afterwards, a man believed to represent ISIS identified Foley in the video and warned the U.S. government that any further actions would be met with acts of violence.

“As a government, you have been at the forefront of the aggression toward the Islamic state. You have plotted against us and gone far out of your way to find reasons to interfere in our affairs,” the unidentified man says. “So any attempt by you, Obama, to deny the Muslims their rights of living in safety under the Islamic caliphate will result in the bloodshed of your people.”

After the execution of Foley, the man in the video threatens to kill another American journalist depending on further actions taken by the U.S.

The video, titled “A Message To America,” was taken down by YouTube shortly after it was posted because it violated the site’s violence policies.

Foley, 40, spoke at Medill in 2011, only 15 days after he was released from captivity in Libya. Foley earned his masters degree in journalism from Medill.

This post was updated to include statements from the National Security Council, Diane Foley and Medill Dean Brad Hamm.

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