President Barack Obama has condemned the beheading of American journalist James Foley at the hands of terror group ISIS, describing its ideology as "bankrupt" and stating that "no just God" would stand for its violent acts. He also pledged that despite the militants' threats, the U.S. will not be backing down from military operations against them.
"Jim was taken from us in an act of violence that shocks the conscience of the entire world. He was 40 years old – one of five siblings, the son of a mom and dad who worked tirelessly for his release. Earlier today, I spoke to the Foleys and told them that we are all heartbroken at their loss, and join them in honoring Jim and all that he did," Obama said in his statement on Wednesday.
"So ISIL speaks for no religion. Their victims are overwhelmingly Muslim, and no faith teaches people to massacre innocents. No just God would stand for what they did yesterday, and for what they do every single day. ISIL has no ideology of any value to human beings. Their ideology is bankrupt. They may claim out of expediency that they are at war with the United States or the West, but the fact is they terrorize their neighbors and offer them nothing but an endless slavery to their empty vision, and the collapse of any definition of civilized behavior."
On Tuesday, ISIS released a video showing the apparent beheading of Foley. The Islamic militants also threatened a second American journalist, believed to be Steven Sotloff, and warned that his life depends on Obama ending military operations in Iraq.
The U.S. has aided the Kurdish and the central Iraqi governments with arms and airstrikes in their battle against ISIS, which has captured significant territory in Iraq and Syria. Despite the militants' threats in the video, Obama said that the American government will not be backing down from its initiative.
"They have rampaged across cities and villages – killing innocent, unarmed civilians in cowardly acts of violence. They abduct women and children, and subject them to torture and rape and slavery. They have murdered Muslims – both Sunni and Shia – by the thousands. They target Christians and religious minorities, driving them from their homes, murdering them when they can for no other reason than they practice a different religion. They declared their ambition to commit genocide against an ancient people," Obama stated.
"The United States of America will continue to do what we must do to protect our people. We will be vigilant and we will be relentless. When people harm Americans, anywhere, we do what's necessary to see that justice is done. And we act against ISIL, standing alongside others."
Foley had reportedly disappeared in northwest Syria in November 2012 after he was forced into a vehicle by gunmen. He had been working for U.S.-based online news outlet GlobalPost.
Foley's family, who had been searching for their son, responded to the news in a Facebook message, grieving the loss of the journalist's life.
"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," reads a message by Diane Foley, his mother.
"We implore the kidnappers to spare the lives of the remaining hostages. Like Jim, they are innocents. They have no control over American government policy in Iraq, Syria or anywhere in the world."
Obama remembered the American citizen in his speech, describing him as "a journalist, a son, a brother, and a friend."
"He reported from difficult and dangerous places, bearing witness to the lives of people a world away. He was taken hostage nearly two years ago in Syria, and he was courageously reporting at the time on the conflict there," the president said.
"Jim Foley's life stands in stark contrast to his killers."