Jihadists 'demanded HK$1b to free American journalist James Foley'

PUBLISHED : Friday, 22 August, 2014, 1:26am
UPDATED : Friday, 22 August, 2014, 1:26am

American journalist James Foley's jihadist captors had demanded a ransom of €100 million (HK$1 billion) for his release, his employer GlobalPost said yesterday.

"GlobalPost CEO Philip Balboni confirms that the initial ransom demand from Jim Foley's captors was €100 million," a spokesman for the news website said. Foley - who was beheaded on a jihadist video this week - had been reporting for GlobalPost from Syria when he was abducted in November 2012.

Balboni declined to discuss the response to the ransom but shared the communications with US government authorities, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Officials said US forces tried to rescue Foley and other American hostages during a secret mission into Syria and exchanged fire with Islamic State militants only to discover the captives were not there. The mission, authorised by President Barack Obama based on US intelligence, took place earlier this summer.

Syria's government yesterday denied any such operation had taken place inside its territory, thought it does not control large areas where militants operate.

US officials would not say exactly when the operation took place but said it was not in the past couple of weeks. They said US special forces and other military personnel dropped into the target zone in Syria and engaged in a firefight with Islamic State militants, killing several.

It appeared to be the first direct ground engagement between the US and Islamic State militants. Obama demanded on Wednesday that the world take action against the "cancer" of jihadist extremism in Iraq.

Shortly after he spoke, the State Department asked for 300 more US troops to be sent to Iraq to protect US facilities.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse