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Middle East

James Foley beheading: 'We wanted to negotiate with Isis after email threat', parents say

Terrorists sent an email threatening to execute the journalist before murder

James Foley’s parents had hoped to negotiate with his captors after being sent an email threatening to kill him a week before gory footage of his death emerged.

John and Diane Foley, from Rochester in New Hampshire, received the chilling message on 12 August and sent it straight to the US Government.

The email from the Islamic State (Isis) claimed they had been given “many chances to negotiate” but the couple said it was only the second time they had been contacted.

Speaking on the Today programme in the US, Mr Foley said he was “excited” to see an email from their son's captors after hearing from the terrorists just once since his son disappeared.

“We hadn't heard from Jim's captors since December and I actually was excited to see an email despite the conclusion that they would execute Jim [Mr Foley],” he said.

"We, I, underestimated that point. I did not realise how brutal they were and I actually hoped we could engage in negotiations with them, if they were willing to send us any sort of communication because we'd had none prior.”

He and his wife had set up a special email address for communicating with Isis, he said, and sent multiple messages “hoping to engage them” but the replies stopped in December.

The video shows a man, thought to be James Foley, kneeling in front of a black-clad militant

The extremists said his death was revenge for the 90 US air strikes against Isis militants in northern Iraq since 8 August and threatened further recriminations against American citizens if the operation continues.

US special forces failed to rescue Mr Foley and his fellow hostages in an operation in July, it has emerged, just weeks before his death.

Soldiers raided an oil refinery in northern Syria based on intelligence but the hosages had recently been moved.

Mr Foley’s death has sparked fresh controversy over the US and Britain’s refusal to negotiate with terrorists, while some European countries allegedly pay ransoms in attempts to free trapped citizens.

Many avoid financing terrorists and encouraging more kidnappings at any cost, while for other nations a person’s life is worth the risk.

Mr Foley's captors had demanded €100 million (£80 million) from his parents and political concessions from Washington

Intelligence agencies on both sides of the Atlantic are working to identify the jihadist who carried out the brutal killing, with expert analysts sifting through the gruesome footage for clues amid suggestions that the extremist is from London.

The killer in the execution video is reported to be “John”, the ringleader of a trio of UK-born extremists responsible for guarding Western hostages and nicknamed after members of The Beatles.

Mr Foley’s parents received a phone call from Pope Francis on Thursday, who expressed his condolences to the Catholic family.

The journalist's mother described the Pope as “just so kind”, adding: “He offered us his personal prayer and we felt very comforted and supported in that regard.“

The couple are setting up a fund in Mr Foley’s memory ”so that his compassion can live on”.

A scholarship fund has been established at Marquette University in Wisconsin, where he graduated in 1996.

Additional reporting by PA