James Foley beheading: President Obama calls jihadists’ bluff and launches fresh air strikes against Isis targets near Mosul

Hostages at risk of reprisals thought to include at least 10 Westerners

us editor

The United States has unleashed a new aerial barrage against jihadist positions in northern Iraq in a clear sign that Barack Obama will not be deterred by the beheading this week of an American reporter, James Foley, or by threats of further murders of foreign hostages if the strikes continue.

US officials confirmed that six strikes were carried out near Mosul Dam, which was retaken from Isis militants this week by a combined Kurdish and Iraqi force. The purpose, the officials said, was to consolidate the government forces’ hold on the vital facility and establish a wide safety perimeter around it. The video of the murder of Mr Foley – which first surfaced on Tuesday – included a chilling narration saying he was being killed in direct response to the US air strikes, which now number 84 since they started on 8 August.

The video also warned that further killings would follow if the attacks did not end and specifically identified the captive journalist Steven Sotloff as being the next victim in line.

It is believed that Isis, which now styles itself as the Islamic State, may be holding an additional two US journalists, whose whereabouts and fate are also of urgent concern in Washington.

“Those who would perpetrate such acts need to understand something,” the Attorney General, Eric Holder, said, as news emerged of the air strikes overnight on Wednesday. “We have long memories and our reach is very wide and we will not forget what happened. People will be held accountable one way or another.”

Details, meanwhile, have surfaced of efforts made by the hostage-takers to extract a ransom for the release of Mr Foley. US officials, speaking anonymously, said that more than $100m was demanded by Isis in email communications with Mr Foley’s parents in New Hampshire. Unlike some European countries, however, the US appears firm in its resolve not to pay ransom to terror groups.

While the return of the US military to Iraq has been met with consternation by most Americans, the horror of Mr Foley’s murder will, if anything, now make it easier politically for Mr Obama to sustain the air campaign.

 

John Allen, a retired Marine general who commanded the Afghanistan war from 2011 to 2013, urged Mr Obama to “move quickly” to pressure Isis’s “entire nervous system” to “break it up, and destroy its pieces”. “A comprehensive American and international response now – now – is vital to the destruction of this threat… The Islamic State is an entity beyond the pale of humanity and it must be eradicated. If we delay now, we will pay later,” he wrote on the Defence One website.

There has so far been no indication from Mr Obama that he would countenance such a step. Even so, Americans today were, for the first time, learning the details of a failed rescue operation by US special forces inside Syria earlier this summer. Mr Foley and other hostages were nowhere to be found. A firefight with Isis guards took place and one US soldier was hurt but not critically, the Pentagon acknowledged.

 

There have been no voices from Congress calling on Mr Obama to end the strikes, in spite of fears for the life of Mr Sotloff and other reporters. On the conservative side, Senator John McCain has led those demanding that US action should be more muscular. “The strategy should be to launch all-out air attacks in Iraq and Syria to defeat” the Isis fighters, he said.

By contrast, Adam Schiff, a California Democrat and House Intelligence Committee member warned: “The administration would be wise to not get sucked in.”

Meanwhile, France’s President François Hollande has placed the blame for the crisis on Britain and the US.

He told Le Monde the “international community carries a very grave responsibility” for the rise of Isis because a year ago it refused to take military action against the Syrian regime to punish its use of chemical weapons.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Sport
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
News
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
News
Image from a flyer at the CPAC event where Nigel Farage will be speaking
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

£23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small, friendly, proactive...

Recruitment Genius: Photographic Event Crew

£14500 - £22800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developers - .NET / ASP.NET / WebAPI / JavaScript

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is required to join a lea...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Solicitor - City

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: A first rate opportunity to join a top ranking...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower