World leaders meet after third Islamic State beheading video

David Cameron speaking about the killing of David Haines

MPs suggest that Cameron will put off any airstrike announcement until after Scottish referendum

LAST UPDATED AT 09:37 ON Mon 15 Sep 2014

Foreign ministers from around the world are due to meet in Paris today to plan their next move against Islamic State militants.

The two-day summit follows the beheading of British aid worker David Haines at the hands of the militants. Islamic State released video footage of his death and threatened to kill a second Briton, Alan Henning, a 47-year-old aid volunteer from Salford.

David Cameron has vowed to "hunt down" the killers and said that the "menace" of Islamic State has to be destroyed. Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond will meet US Secretary of State John Kerry and other foreign ministers in Paris to discuss plans to tackle the extremists, who have taken control of large parts of northern Iraq and Syria.

According to the BBC, the summit is expected to look at US plans to offer more military support to Iraq, as well as plans to prevent foreign fighters and funding from reaching the extremists.

The US has said that 40 countries have signed up to a coalition to help fight the militant group and several Arab countries have also offered to take part in airstrikes.

In the video released on Saturday night, Haines, a father of two from Holderness in East Yorkshire, was killed by a masked jihadist with a British accent. Haines, the third western hostage known to have been beheaded by IS in the past month, was kidnapped in Syria in March last year.

Frank Gardner, BBC security correspondent, says the extremists are clearly "angry and frustrated" that their advance across Iraq has been stopped in its tracks.

"Incapable to date of shooting down America's F/A18 jets, this is the group's way of hitting back at a distant enemy through the medium of public information," says Gardner.

He says it is now looks "inevitable" that the UK will step up its role in the fight against IS.

Britain has not ruled out airstrikes but is yet to outline its plans. Several MPs have told The Times they believe any announcement is being delayed until after the Scottish independence referendum, with party leaders "afraid of swaying anti-interventionist Scottish voters".

Islamic State threatens to  behead British aid worker

03 September

David Cameron is holding an emergency meeting today to discuss Islamic State's threat to kill a British aid worker unless attacks on its militants are stopped.

The jihadists yesterday released a second video, in which they appear to behead another American journalist, Steven Sotloff, and then threaten the life of a British hostage. This morning US authorities confirmed that the video was genuine.

It follows closely the pattern of the James Foley video released two weeks ago, says The Times. A masked jihadist, believed to be the same British man who killed Foley, points a knife at the camera and addresses US President Barack Obama directly. "I'm back, Obama, and I'm back because of your arrogant foreign policy towards the Islamic State," he says.

He claims the US airstrikes in Amerli and the Mosul Dam triggered Sotloff's death. "So just as your missiles continue to strike our people, our knife will continue to strike the necks of your people," he warns.

Sotloff is also forced to address the camera, just like Foley. The moment of Sotloff's death is not filmed but the masked jihadist later places what appears to be Sotloff's detached head upon his body.

The jihadist then issues a direct threat against a British hostage, who can be seen on the video. He warns governments to back off "this evil alliance of America against the Islamic State".

The hostage is a British aid worker, who has not been named in the British press at the request of his family but has been identified by the international press. Just like Foley and Sotloff, he is presented to the camera with his head shaven and wearing an orange jump-suit.

Cameron, who has not ruled out British involvement in airstrikes in Iraq, has condemned Sotloff's killing as an "absolutely disgusting and despicable act". In a statement last night, he said: "We have already been working hard to keep British people safe and we will continue to do all we can to protect our country and our people from these barbaric terrorists."


Islamic State: what we know about James Foley's killer

21 Aug

The investigation is underway to identify the Islamic State militant who killed American journalist James Foley. The killer was filmed speaking in a British accent and taking a knife to the throat of 40-year-old Foley, who was kidnapped in Syria two years ago. The video, which was broadcast around the world on Tuesday night, has sparked a worldwide manhunt involving the FBI, MI5 and Scotland Yard. 

How are the authorities trying to identify him?

The video itself offers some clues, such as the killer's build and skin colour. Using Foley's measurements as a guide, security services will be able to work out the killer's height. Experts will also be looking at his desert boots and distinctive commando knife to find out where they might have been bought, says the Daily Telegraph. MI5 and the police Counter-Terrorism Unit will be looking at their own databases for clues, as well as social media and online forums. The Metro says that Muslim community leaders in Britain have also vowed to work with police and security services to track down the killer and expose other British extremists.

Will his accent give him away?

The video was shot using high-quality equipment, which should help investigators glean clues from the killer's voice. Forensic phonetics experts will be listening to the accent and tone of his voice, as well as the pattern and duration of syllables. Voice-recognition software can also help identify whether he has appeared in videos before. Professor Paul Kerswill, a linguistics expert at the University of York, told The Guardian that it sounded like the killer spoke in "multicultural London English" most commonly found in London's East End. However, other linguistics experts have warned that it might be difficult to pinpoint exactly where he is from as young people in urban areas tend to pick up a range of influences in their accents. 

What do we know about him so far?

Counter-terrorism experts believe the killer might be one of around 500 British-born jihadists who left the UK to fight in Syria and Iraq – many of whom are known to the security services. One former foreign hostage believes the killer in the video is the ringleader of three British jihadists who guard foreign hostages in Raqqa, a stronghold of Islamic State rebels in Syria. A source close to the former hostage told The Guardian that the militant referred to himself as "John" and fellow hostages referred to the three jihadists as "The Beatles" because of their nationality. He was said to be the main negotiator during talks earlier this year to release 11 Islamic State hostages. They were eventually handed to Turkish officials after ransom demands were met. The source said the British jihadist was "intelligent, educated and a devout believer in radical Islamic teachings". It also emerged today that US special forces failed in an attempt to free Foley and other western hostages in Syria just weeks before his murder.

Why choose a British executioner?

Experts note that British fighters have been carrying out executions and torture for months, but this appears to be the first carried out against a Westerner on video. Dr James Alvarez, a British-American hostage negotiator, told the Telegraph that the Islamic State would have deliberately chosen a Briton to cause maximum shock in the West. "It serves their purpose to have people hate them," he said. "And there is nothing that will put more hatred into people's hearts than watching a British person doing something as horrifying as that."

Will authorities succeed in identifying him?

Professor Peter Neumann, director of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation at King's College London, tells The Independent he would be "very surprised" if the security services had not already narrowed down his identity to "two or three people".  Analysts believe it is only a matter of time before he is identified, says BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner. "Bringing him to justice though, will be an altogether more difficult proposition." 


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