UK 'considering every option' to save life of British hostage threatened in beheading video

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond refers to previous failed rescue – but refuses to discuss next steps

The UK will examine 'every possible option' to protect the British hostage who has been threatened by Isis, the British Foreign Secretary has said today - including the possibility of air strikes.

Speaking after an emergency Cobra meeting chaired by David Cameron today, Philip Hammond also confirmed there had been an unsuccessful US-led attempt at rescuing the British man shown in a video of the beheading of Steven Sotloff, an American journalist.

When asked what the UK could do in terms of attempting to extricate the British hostage, Mr Hammond responded: “You are aware of course of the rescue attempt that took place some time ago, unfortunately unsuccessfully.

“You wouldn’t expect me to discuss the various options we will be considering, but I can assure you we will look at every possible option to protect this person.”

He said analysis of footage of both Mr Sotloff's murder and James Foley's death concluded the killer is the same man in both, the so-called ‘Jihadi John’, who speaks with a distinctive London or south-east accent.

The Prime Minister has since condemned the "sickening and brutal murder" of Mr Sotloff and expressed "shock and anger" that it appeared to have been committed by a British citizen.

"A country like ours will not be cowed by these barbaric killers," he told MPs. He vowed that Isis will "be squeezed out of existence".

Mr Cameron also insisted Britain will continue to refuse to pay ransoms to terrorists in return for the release of hostages, adding the UK needed to ensure other countries are also "good to their word".

The government has pledged to examine "every possible option" to protect the British hostage, the Foreign Secretary said today. However, while the UK government "will certainly consider" the possibility of air strikes, it has "made no decision to do so at the moment," Mr Hammond added.

"It doesn't make any difference at all to our strategic planning. As the Prime Minister said, we will look very carefully at the options available to us to support the legitimate government of Iraq and Kurdistan in defending themselves from Isis," he said.

"If we judge that air strikes could be beneficial, could be the best way to do that, then we will certainly consider them but we have made no decision to do so at the moment."

The US has launched air strikes on Isis targets in northern Iraq but Britain has not taken any military action thus far.

Mr Hammond also confirmed preliminary government analysis has shown the video is genuine.

READ MORE: HOW WE SHOULD REMEMBER STEPHEN SOTLOFF
British captive shown in Isis video
KILLING OF A BRITISH HOSTAGE BY ISIS WOULD SHIFT OPINION ON AIR STRIKES

In some of his first comments on the second beheading, President Obama condemned Mr Sotloff's murder as "a horrific act of violence" and insisted that the US would not be "intimidated" by militants' threats.

Speaking during a visit to Estonia, Mr Obama said: "Those who make the mistake of harming Americans will learn that we will not forget, that our reach is long and that justice will be served."

Video footage showing the beheading of Mr Sotloff by and a warning the British hostage will be next is placing David Cameron under increasing pressure to take action against Islamic State fighters.

At the end of the new clip, entitled 'A Second Message to America', an Isis fighter parades a third hostage, identified as a British man, and threatens to behead him unless Western governments “back off” from the “evil alliance of America against the Islamic State”.

The militant also warns President Obama: “Just as your missiles continue to strike our people, our knife will continue to strike the necks of your people.”

Downing Street confirmed on Tuesday the UK has been aware of a British hostage for some months. The British man’s family have asked that he not be named in the media.

The Prime Minister described Mr Sotloff’s death as “an absolutely disgusting and despicable act” upon hearing the news yesterday.

The US verified the video as authentic today, and said it “is sickened by this brutal act taking the life of another innocent American citizen”.

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