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He is then shown being beheaded.
The National Security Council is aware of the video.
“The intelligence community is working as quickly as possible to determine its authenticity. If genuine, we are appalled by the brutal murder of an innocent American journalist and we express our deepest condolences to his family and friends. We will provide more information when it is available,” NSC spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said.
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Foley disappeared in November 2012 in northwest Syria, near the border with Turkey. He was reportedly forced into a vehicle by gunmen; he was not heard from again. At the time of his disappearance, he was working for the GlobalPost.
On Tuesday afternoon, the Facebook group set up to support Foley and his family, “Free James Foley,” wrote, “We know that many of you are looking for confirmation or answers. Please be patient until we all have more information, and keep the Foleys in your thoughts and prayers.”
The video also shows another American journalist. His life is said by the militants in the video to hang in the balance, depending on what Obama does next.
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The journalist is believed to be Steven Sotloff, who was kidnapped at the Syria-Turkey border in 2013. Sotloff is a contributor to Time and Foreign Policy magazines.
As a freelancer, Foley picked up work for a number of major media outlets, including Agence France-Presse and GlobalPost.
“On behalf of John and Diane Foley, and also GlobalPost, we deeply appreciate all of the messages of sympathy and support that have poured in since the news of Jim’s possible execution first broke,” Philip Balboni, GlobalPost CEO and co-founder, said in a published statement.
“We have been informed that the FBI is in the process of evaluating the video posted by the Islamic State to determine if it is authentic. Until we have that determination, we will not be in a position to make any further statement. We ask for your prayers for Jim and his family.”
Foley had previously been taken captive in Libya. He was detained there in April 2011 along with three other reporters and released six weeks later.