Diane Foley, mother of James Foley, during an interview at her home in Rochester, N.H., on Aug. 24, 2014.(Dominick Reuter / AFP/Getty Images)
President Barack Obama speaks from Martha’s Vineyard on Aug. 20, 2014, after Islamic State insurgents released a video showing the beheading of journalist James Foley, who had gone missing in Syria in November 2012.(Kevin Lamarque / Reuters)
U.S. journalist James Foley arrives with fellow reporter Clare Gillis (not pictured), after being released by the Libyan government, at the Rixos Hotel in Tripoli, on May 18, 2011.(Louafi Larbi / Reuters)
The parents of an American journalist beheaded by the Islamic State say they are surprised a college-educated, London-raised man is the masked militant known as “Jihadi John” from the video of their son’s slaying but also realize stopping him won’t end the bloodshed.
“The point is if we capture him and bring him to justice, what does that do? ISIS is still doing its thing. It’s a very narrow approach. We will be happy when ISIS is defeated,” John Foley, father of slain freelance journalist James Foley, said during an interview with reporters Thursday in Tucson, Ariz. “The next ‘Jihadi John’ is on the way.”
The Foleys spoke about the front man for Islamic State murder videos with reporters before they participated in a forum at the University of Arizona on the growing dangers journalists face in conflict areas. James Foley was captured by the Islamic State in November 2012 and killed last August.
But it came as a surprise to Diane Foley that “Jihadi John” was revealed to be Mohammed Emwazi, a soccer-loving young man from London who was educated and showed promise before joining militants in Syria.
“So he, in a sense, had a privileged upbringing, so to me that makes that even more sad that he’d want to use his gifts for such evil and such hatred. It’s very frightening to me,” she said.
Diane Foley added that Emwazi, a Kuwait-born computer science graduate educated in Britain, was a sad and sick man.
“We need to forgive him for not having a clue what he was doing,” she said.
Emwazi is in his mid-20s and had been known to British intelligence services since at least 2009. He appeared in a video released in August denouncing the West before the 40-year-old Foley was killed. A man with similar stature and voice was also featured in videos of the Islamic State killings of American journalist Steven Sotloff, Britons David Haines and Alan Hemming, and U.S. aid worker Abdul-Rahman Kassig.
At the university event, the Foleys, of New Hampshire, said the government — and the press — failed to do enough to save the lives of Foley and others. They talked about being kept in the dark by government officials investigating the kidnapping.
“For one year, we didn’t really know where he was or whether he was alive,” John Foley said.
Diane Foley added: “We had no one who was accountable for Jim, if you will.”
The Foleys also said some responsibility lies with U.S. members of the media who failed to continue reporting on their son’s kidnapping, letting it fall out of the news cycle.
“We’re a hot item when it’s a fresh story, but after the item dissipates, we couldn’t catch a cold,” John Foley said.
The couple was joined by Terry Anderson, a former Associated Press correspondent who was held captive in Lebanon for nearly seven years, and David McGraw, an attorney for The New York Times.