James Foley beheading: Police 'could have narrowed hunt for killer to very small group of people'


investigations editor

Scotland Yard has joined the international manhunt for the killers of James Foley, after issuing a statement warning people could be prosecuted for simply viewing the graphic video of his death.

Police announced their involvement as outrage grew over footage capturing the last minutes of the American journalist murdered by Isis, in which his killer appears to speak in a London accent. Some experts have suggested the executioner’s accent also has mild North African intonations.

Counter-terrorism officers at Scotland Yard announced they were joining Western intelligence agencies in the investigation, and warned the public that downloading or disseminating the material could be viewed as a criminal offence.

The video posted online by Isis, who are now calling themselves Islamic State, shows Mr Foley in a jumpsuit kneeling beside a man dressed in black.

The footage starts with a speech by President Barack Obama announcing the American military would begin targeted airstrikes against Isis if it failed to halt its advance on Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan.

The video switches to a black screen with white writing that reads: “A Message to America.” Before his death, Mr Foley was forced to recite a message, presumably written for him by his captors, about his “real killer” – the United States.


Intelligence agencies were last night running the video through databases with voice-recognition software to see if it matched anyone on record.

Professor Peter Neumann, director of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation at King’s College London, said he thought the security services may already know the man’s identity.

Video: Isis warning to the West

He said: “I’d be very surprised if they haven’t already narrowed it down to a small group of people.

“The video provides enough clues to show who is responsible. MI6 probably do have a rough idea already of where the hostages are. The intelligence agencies probably have it narrowed down to two or three people.”

Dr Afzal Ashraf, an expert in terrorist ideology, said the video was part of a propaganda war.

He said: “This is part of a recruitment drive to radicalise Western Muslims, but it won’t be successful. When terrorists carry out acts like this, it always triggers a backlash. I would go as far as to say the acts in this video have signed the death warrant for the head of Isis.”

Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Police was criticised after claiming anyone “viewing” the video could be prosecuted.

Legal expert David Allen Green tweeted: “Dear @metpoliceuk, viewing a video by itself not a ‘terror offence’. Anti-terrorism is not helped by misstating the law in alarmist ways.”

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