James Foley might have been released if the United States had paid his ISIS captors a significant ransom, but unlike European countries, the U.S. has a policy of refusing to pay cash for release of its citizens held hostage by terrorist groups. In Europe, only the U.K. has a similar policy of refusing to pay ransom for hostages.
The revelation that ISIS was willing to release James Foley for money was reported in The New York Times Thursday, and appears to cast a new light on claims made by the British-accented ISIS militant who beheaded Foley in a horrifying YouTube video that the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes in Iraq.
According to the Times report, ISIS demanded a $100 million ransom for James Foley before he was killed. The Islamic militant group has also demanded the release of various prisoners held by the United States, in exchange for hostages.
ISIS is still demanding ransom for three other American hostages, threatening to kill them if the U.S. does not cave to the militant’s demands. Another American hostage, identified as kidnapped journalist Steven Sotloff, also appears in the James Foley beheading video, being threatened with death by the executioner identified as “John.”
Other European countries have paid reportedly large sums for the release of their citizens. According to recent reports, Foley’s executioner, the British militant named “John,” also acted as the negotiator who secured huge sums in exchange for the freeing of several European captives earlier this year.
According to The Boston Globe, James Foley’s family received emails from Foley’s ISIS captors dating back to last fall that included various demands for money and other concessions to set him free. But last week the family received an email from the militants that made no demands, but was “vitriolic” in tone and left no doubt that ISIS planned to murder Foley.
Philip Balboni, CEO of The Global Post — the news service that employed Foley at the time of his kidnapping — said that a recently freed hostage who had been held with Foley carried a message from the captive reporter to Foley’s family, but Balboni did not disclose the contents of that message.
Balboni said his own company poured millions of dollars into its efforts to recover Foley. But neither his company nor Foley’s family could raise the ransom because, among terrorist groups, American hostages carry a much higher price than Europeans.
Hostage-taking is big business for ISIS and other Islamic terror groups. In July the Times reported that last year alone Al Qaeda and its affiliates took in $66 million in hostage ransom payments, and that particular terror group has collected over $125 million in ransoms since 2008.
James Foley was abducted by ISIS around Thanksgiving of 2012 as he stopped at an internet café in Syria as he headed for the Turkish border just 25 miles away.