IS opens new anti-US front with beheading video

Baghdad - Islamic State's beheading of a US journalist and its threat to "destroy the American cross" suggests it has gained enough confidence seizing large areas of Iraq and Syria to take aim at American targets despite the risks.

On Tuesday night, Islamic State released a video purporting to show one of its fighters beheading James Foley, who was kidnapped in Syria nearly two years ago.

The black-clad executioner, who spoke English with a British accent, also produced another American journalist and said his fate depends on President Barack Obama's next move.

The beheading came as a surprise because Islamic State had seemed focussed on proclaiming a caliphate in the parts of Iraq and Syria it controls, marching on Baghdad and redrawing the map of the Middle East.

But in several telephone conversations with a Reuters reporter over the past few months, Islamic State fighters had indicated that their leader, Iraqi Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, had several surprises in store for the West.

They hinted that attacks on American interests or even US soil were possible through sleeper cells in Europe and the United States.

"The West are idiots and fools. They think we are waiting for them to give us visas to go and attack them or that we will attack with our beards or even Islamic outfits," said one.

"They think they can distinguish us these days - they are fools and more than that they don't know we can play their game in intelligence. They infiltrated us with those who pretend to be Muslims and we have also penetrated them with those who look like them."

Hesitant brothers

Another Islamic State militant said the group had practical reasons for taking on the United States.

"The stronger the war against the States gets the better this will help hesitant brothers to join us. America will send its rockets and we will send our bombs. Our land will not be attacked while their land is safe."

Unlike al-Qaeda, Islamic State did not at first seem bent on spectacular attacks on the West: it used fear to tighten its grip on the towns it seized in northern Iraq after facing little resistance from the US-trained Iraqi army and Kurdish peshmerga fighters who held parts of the area.

But a series of videos it released recently, culminating with the one that showed Foley's death, resembled footage that al-Qaeda churned out while killing US soldiers, beheading Americans and slaughtering Shi'ites during the US occupation.

The videos followed the first US air strikes in Iraq - targeting Islamic State militants - since American forces withdrew in 2011.

It seems clear that Islamic State is raising the stakes, aware that the gruesome death of an American and the image of another one at the mercy of an executioner who is taunting a US president could invite retaliation - heavier air strikes at least.

It may be a way of improving its jihad credentials and attracting more followers and prestige in an Islamist militant world where taking on the "infidel" United States is a must.

Perhaps the most telling video was one released just before Foley was shown in an orange jump suit to remind Americans that Islamic militants are still angry at the detention of Muslims at Guantanamo Bay.

The earlier video suggested Islamic State was gearing up for an existential holy war between the caliphate and the crusader America, with the threat to destroy "The American Cross".

Western passports

In one scene an American soldier weeps after losing a comrade and the Christian hymn "Amazing Grace" can be heard. In another, there is heavy breathing from the Star Wars movie character Darth Vader.

Reacting to the video, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari called on the international community to help his country battle the "savage" Islamic State.

But the United States and other Western powers may now be diverting their attention away from the Sunni insurgents in northern Iraq to what they are capable of doing overseas.

The group can draw on hundreds if not thousands of foreigners with Western passports that can keep them below the radar, like the British-sounding man who appeared to have killed Foley, to carry out its threats.

Masrour Barzani, head of the Kurdish region's National Security Council, recently told Reuters he was concerned about Islamic State sleeper cells in the semi-autonomous Kurdish region in the north.

But he seemed equally anxious about a broader problem.

"Many of the members of [Islamic State] that have come from abroad have come from Europe, from the US, from the Middle East and North Africa - all over the world," said Barzani.

"These are people that are not going to die in battles in Iraq and Syria. Many of these people will go back to their countries of origin, becoming potential leaders or terrorist operatives, which could really become a bigger threat to their own countries."

Grave situation

Western countries are well aware of the issue - nine people suspected of planning to join Islamist militants in Syria were detained in Austria on Wednesday - but can they come up with tactics to tackle it?

"We are absolutely aware that there are significant numbers of British nationals involved in terrible crimes, probably in the commission of atrocities, making Jihad with [Islamic State] and other extremist organisations," British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond told the BBC.

"I don't think this video changes anything. It just heightens awareness of a situation which is very grave and which we've been working on for several months."

Jamal Khashoggi, a long-time expert on al-Qaeda who interviewed Osama bin Laden, said that caution and concerns over security may have kept Islamic State from carrying out attacks on Western targets so far.

But under the right conditions it will not hesitate.

"If they can blow up a suicide bombers in Times Square this afternoon they'll do it. What is keeping them from doing that is vigilance and security," he said.

"But we have to admit that they are targeting all of us. If they can launch a terrorist attack in Riyadh, New York or London they'll do that."

Read more on: is james foley iraq
Wayne McCrae 2014-08-20 07:15:31 PM
America must go in and bomb the crap out of them
Johnnie Walker 2014-08-20 07:16:19 PM
Anyone willing to kill for their religion should start with themselves!
David Luis 2014-08-20 07:18:20 PM
Back in 1941 another delusional called HIROHITO had the same idea....
Eckhart Piprek 2014-08-20 07:19:02 PM
With the US funding and providing sophisticated weaponry to the Israeli war machine there will always be an anti-US (West) front, likely to spread even further worldwide.
Kevin McDonald 2014-08-20 07:32:20 PM
RAW - Kevin Mc Donald Behind a robe you hide your face Your actions against man a total disgrace Your accent it seems is out of place As you remove a victim from the human race. Your promise and threat to drown in blood More hatred and action against you in flood Your beliefs you prove lower than mud As the world regards you like a piece of crud. Another you threaten to end his life With stick or stone even your knife Remember rather his children and wife Their sacrifice for your trouble and strife. He was there to help the world to see How your people suffered their pain to be free A non combatant he is you see A reporter, a cameraman just like me. Send him home and end the war The suffering is enough the wounds are raw The words of Caesar of old are lore I came I conquered I saw. Please stop this now kill no more...
Astral Planes 2014-08-20 07:32:38 PM
What a waste - that handsome talented young man. I'm crying over it. I'm a peace-loving Canadian, but it's time. Starting with cleaning up home territory and terrorism in the western world would be a good start. They have infiltrated every Western European and North American. country and it's time to weed them out. They are a disgrace to enlightened, peace-loving Muslims around the world.
Dhlamini Reddyd 2014-08-20 07:54:54 PM
Actuarly ,who is the funders of the so called rebels,I just asking,I'm desparate to get that information.
Andrew Salies 2014-08-20 07:55:39 PM
Lol. I dont see any Moslems on this blog. Wonder why not.
Binte Maya 2014-08-20 07:55:42 PM
Wow! What name calling.! Its amazing that when we decide to voice our opinions and stand up against such violence even by our own so called muslims.. we get name called. When we don't comment that too is a problem..I guess its true u really cant please everyone stoffel!
Abrie Greeff 2014-08-20 08:05:06 PM
More death in the name of islam. I haven't seen any muslims denounce these acts as yet.