Extremists 'told family Foley would be killed'

Washington - Jihadists told the family of American journalist James Foley this month that he would be executed, one of the media outlets he worked for said on Wednesday, after he was beheaded.

Philip Balboni, chief executive of news site GlobalPost, to which Foley contributed while covering the war in Libya and then Syria before his abduction there in 2012, said the journalist's captors had been in touch in the weeks before his murder.

"We've had communication with the captors, and there was at one time a receptivity to a negotiation that would lead to a release," Balboni told MSNBC television.

"It's impossible to say because the kidnappers ceased to communicate with us, with the family."

Balboni then stated that, after the beginning of US air strikes in Iraq - the first since the end of the Iraq war - the Islamic State warned the Foleys that their son would be killed.

"Innocent journalist"

"We have not released this, but there was one communication after the bombing began that went to the family that stated that Jim would be executed," he said.

"We hoped and prayed that it would not and we did everything we could ourselves to communicate back to them that Jim was just an innocent journalist who loved the Syrian people, who understood Islam and only wanted to tell the story of the Syrian people."

Asked if he believed the bombing campaign was connected to Foley's murder, Balboni said: "the onset of the bombing, which was done for very good and sufficient reason by our government, perhaps was the thing that sealed Jim's fate."

But he stressed that the Foley family does not blame their son's death on President Barack Obama's decision to launch air strikes.

Remaining hostages

In early August the United States began bombing IS forces in northern Iraq in a bid to prevent a feared genocide as jihadists closed in on thousands of members of Iraq's Yazidi minority.

Later US air raids were conducted in support of Iraqi forces near Mosul, where extremists were battling for control of a major dam.

GlobalPost has led the two-year effort to find and free Foley. Balboni said several other Westerners were taken hostage in Syria and elsewhere, and that he was "virtually certain" that ransoms were paid to gain their freedom.

"We are so deeply sorry that we couldn't bring Jim home safely," he said.

Balboni and the family were now focusing on the remaining hostages, including an American which IS has threatened to kill unless Obama calls off the air strikes.

"We know what they've done, and we have to believe that they're more than capable of doing this again."