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
News
Sir David Attenborough
people
Life and Style
Young girl and bowl of cereal
food + drink
News
Comic miserablist Larry David in 'Curb Your Enthusiasm'
peopleDirector of new documentary Misery Loves Comedy reveals how he got them to open up
Arts and Entertainment
Henry VIII played by Damien Lewis
tvReview: Scheming queens-in-waiting, tangled lines of succession and men of lowly birth rising to power – sound familiar?
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
football
Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Ready to open the Baftas, rockers Kasabian are also ‘great film fans’
musicExclusive: Rockers promise an explosive opening to the evening
Life and Style
David Bowie by Duffy
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Hell, yeah: members of the 369th Infantry arrive back in New York
booksWorld War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel
News
advertisingVideo: The company that brought you the 'Bud' 'Weis' 'Er' frogs and 'Wasssssup' ads, has something up its sleeve for Sunday's big match
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
i100
Environment
Dame Vivienne Westwood speaking at a fracking protest outside Parliament on Monday (AP)
environment
Life and Style
tech
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

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: This post arises as a result of the need to...

Tradewind Recruitment: Class Teacher Required ASAP In Uminster

£120 - £150 per annum: Tradewind Recruitment: I am recruiting on instruction o...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wimbledon, SW London

£24000 - £28000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wim...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness