'Manhunt' for James Foley's Islamic State killer on front pages
- 21 August 2014
As the press digests the killing by jihadists of journalist James Foley in Syria, most papers focus on the fact the man wielding the knife is thought to be British.
The i is among those describing the "manhunt" under way, with the Metro reporting that "mainstream" British Muslims are supporting the work of intelligence agencies to track him down. However, Dr Taj Hargey complains in the Daily Mirror that UK Muslim organisations have not done enough to condemn the "barbarity". "British Muslims must say loudly and clearly that these militant Sunni fundamentalists are not acting in accordance with the Holy Koran," he writes.
Others focus on why those who have travelled to the Middle East from the UK appear to be so vicious. Jason Burke writes in the Guardian: "The environment of a group such as Islamic State, created around a cult of extreme violence and a world view that dehumanises all outside the organisation, can quickly turn an individual into a pitiless terrorist killer, more than happy to execute a defenceless hostage with a knife, on camera."
Shiraz Maher, a specialist on radicalisation from Kings College London writes in the Daily Mail: "When, early last year, I first started speaking to the British radicals who had ventured to Syria, they often stressed their humanitarian impulse, their desire to alleviate the suffering of ordinary Syrians. But all that has changed." Now they are obsessed with establishing an Islamic state, he writes, recalling an internet conversation with a British jihadist - killed fighting in Syria shortly afterwards - who told him: "We are not here for the Syrian people. This land belongs to Allah, not the people."
Guy Adams in the Daily Mail analyses the video to find it "as slick as it is sickening", writing: "The makers... used multiple cameras, and professional microphones. They worked competently with graphics and visual effects, and used editing tools." The writer notes that - unlike previous Islamist videos - it doesn't show the moment of decapitation, quoting sources saying this makes it "more useful as a piece of propaganda". As PR professional Mark Borkowski puts it in the Sun: "These propagandists know exactly how to tell a story and leverage it at maximum speed across social channels."
Despite this, the Daily Telegraph says the high production values will "play into the hands of investigators because of the clarity of the image and the killer's voice", enabling them to analyse his height, skin colour and "south London" accent. Language analyst Derek Rogers writes in the Mirror that English is the killer's native language, saying: "I'd put him at 25. He's probably from an ethnic minority but we cannot be certain, as his accent has been used by white people too."
Another linguistics analyst tells the Times: "It is almost impossible to pinpoint where he came from. There are youths speaking like this and you can't tell if they are Pakistani, Arab, Somali or Jamaican." Whatever his roots, the Daily Express says the killing has left the jihadist "a marked man", with numerous British agencies working on the hunt for him.
However, security professionals quoted by the Times suggest that a knife shown in the video may not have been the one used in the killing. "It raises the possibility that the man with the British accent was not the murderer and was simply acting the part for propaganda purposes," the paper says.
Times cartoonist Morten Morland sums up the situation by picturing a bloodied knife marked with the phrase: "Made in Britain." Meanwhile, the Independent's Dave Brown sketches a pen inscribed "J.Foley" under the title "Mightier". Colin Freeman, who spent six weeks in captivity in Somalia in 2008, writes in the Telegraph that the sword now holds sway.
"In the old days, there used to be a certain symbiosis between journalists and guerrilla groups: as the only people who could broadcast their grievances to the wider world, we had a value, which also afforded a degree of protection." He says the internet has removed the reliance on foreign media but insists that Western news outlets are right to send their own reporters to find "the best way of doing the story justice".
Other writers, such as the Times's Tom Coughlan who reported from war zones with Mr Foley, recall the American's "laid-back" manner: "Jim always mooched around the battlefield, his video camera in hand, with a near total disregard for the metal winging about." Kim Sengupta, in the Independent, remembers Mr Foley working to free two colleagues kidnapped in Syria and later becoming stranded amid shellfire without transport. "That... summed up Foley - selfless in helping others but taking huge risks in pursuit of his work," he writes, adding that his voice will be remembered in the "moving journalism shedding light into some of the darkest corners of the world".
Several papers wonder what the West's reaction to the situation will be, particularly - as the Guardian reports - since Islamic State militants "have seized four more hostages near Aleppo in recent days, taking to more than 20 the number of foreigners they now hold". The Financial Times points out that air strikes might have limited impact, given IS fighters can hide among civilians and use them as shields. A Kurdish commander tells the paper: "IS never settle a front for us to fight or to attack. They don't have any lines where they set up weapons. It doesn't feel like fighting a battle. They never fight on foot and are always in vehicles, so very quick."
After it emerged that a split had developed in the Bank of England's monetary policy committee over whether to keep interest rates at historically low levels, the Financial Times profiles the two "dissenters" who have called for an increase in light of improving economic growth. The paper hears from one analyst who believes the pair are "outliers" of the group of nine, while another wonders: "Is this now two members who will be out on their own for a sustained period, or will they quickly garner a majority?"
A Q&A in the Daily Mail explains what the effect of any rate rise would be on readers' mortgages and savings. The paper also hears from a Conservative member of the Commons Treasury committee, Mark Garnier, who says it would be a "catastrophe" for borrowers who are already struggling to make ends meet. Sun City editor Simon English writes that days after the pair voted to raise rates "new stats showed inflation and wages falling - suggesting any rise in rates could derail the economic recovery". This prompts the paper to brand the duo "planks of England".
The Guardian's Larry Elliott says the rate hike is definitely coming but that it's hard to see it happening before the end of the year. In any case, one mortgage adviser tells the Daily Express, even if a 0.25% increase were put in place this November, it "should not make much difference to most people". And the Telegraph's Allister Heath celebrates the "taboo" being broken, declaring: "We need higher interest rates, and we need them now."
Making people click
Guardian: iPhone 6: leaked photos show possible design
Financial Times: Research shines light on Neanderthals' coexistence with humans
Times: For most of my life, antisemitism was not an issue. Now it is
Mirror: Malky Mackay's Crystal Palace offer withdrawn after Vincent Tan sends dossier of alleged misconduct to FA