The video released by Islamic State militants Tuesday that purportedly shows the execution of American journalist James Foley also shows a former UCF student and journalist who militants are threatening to kill next.
Militants in the video said they killed American journalist James Foley as retribution for U.S. airstrikes in Iraq. The White House, his family and employer said they could not determine the video's authenticity and were attempting to confirm if he had been killed.
Foley, a 40-year-old freelance journalist from Rochester, New Hampshire, went missing nearly two years ago in northern Syria while on assignment for Agence France-Press and the Boston-based media company GlobalPost.
At the end of the video, a militant shows a second man, who was identified as another American journalist, Steven Sotloff, and warns that he could be killed. Sotloff was kidnapped near the Syrian-Turkish border in August 2013 and freelanced for Time, the National Interest and MediaLine.
University of Central Florida confirms Sotloff was enrolled at the school from fall 2002 to fall 2004. He was a pending journalism major, but they have no record that he earned his degree.
President Barack Obama was briefed about the video on Air Force One as he flew from Washington to resume his vacation on the resort island of Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts. A White House statement said Obama would continue to receive regular updates.
White House National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said the administration has seen the video and that the intelligence community is working as quickly as possible to determine if it is authentic.
"If genuine, we are appalled by the brutal murder of an innocent American journalist and we express our deepest condolences to his family and friends," Hayden said in a statement.
Approached by an Associated Press reporter at her home, Foley's mother, Diane Foley, was red-eyed and gracious Tuesday afternoon but said the family would not make an immediate statement. A priest arrived at the home several hours later.
Philip Balboni, GlobalPost CEO and co-founder, said the company had been informed that the FBI is in the process of evaluating the video to determine whether it was authentic. "We ask for your prayers for Jim and his family," he said.
Several senior U.S. officials with direct knowledge of the situation said the Islamic State very recently threatened to kill Foley to avenge the crushing airstrikes over the last two weeks against militants advancing on Mount Sinjar, the Mosul dam and the Kurdish capital of Irbil.
Both areas are in northern Iraq, which has become a key front for the Islamic State as its fighters travel to and from Syria.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the hostage situation by name.
Since Aug. 8, the U.S. military has struck more than 70 Islamic State targets including security checkpoints, vehicles and weapons caches. It's not clear how many militants have been killed in the strikes, although it's likely that some were.
The Internet video of the apparent beheading appears to show the increasing sophistication of the Islamic State group's media arm. It begins with scenes of Obama explaining his decision to order airstrikes in Iraq. Then it switches to a balding man in an orange jumpsuit kneeling in the desert, a black-clad Islamic State fighter by his side. Foley's name appears in both English and Arabic graphics on screen. Foley went missing in Syria in November 2012.
The scene is captured on at least two video cameras, and has been edited in a professional style. The video appears to have been shot in an arid area; there is no vegetation in sight and the horizon is in the distance where the sand meets the gray-blue sky.
Officials from the State Department and Pentagon contacted social media sites Tuesday to inform them of the video and ask them to remove it. Hayden said the administration asked the sites to "take appropriate action consistent with their stated usage policies."
The Islamic State militant group is so ruthless in its attacks against all people they consider heretics or infidels that it has been disowned by al-Qaida's leaders. In seeking to impose its harsh interpretation of Islamic law in the lands it is trying to control, the extremists have slain soldiers and civilians alike in horrifying executions including mounting the decapitated heads of some of its victims on spikes.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Sen. Marco Rubio Statement
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) issued the following statement late Tuesday night:
“The brutal execution of American journalist James Foley by ISIL is the latest example of the evil and barbarism of these terrorists. My thoughts and prayers are with the Foley family and with other Western hostages who at this hour are still being held.
“Just as Al Qaeda’s initial killings of Americans abroad foretold the carnage they would unleash within our borders, this barbaric beheading of a defenseless hostage is the clearest indication to date that ISIL has declared war on the United States, on the American people, and on freedom loving people everywhere.
“For more than a year, ISIL has been murdering civilians, raping women and young girls and enslaving them, and carrying out a systematic genocide of anyone who does not share their warped and extremist Islamist views. ISIL cannot be reasoned with, they can’t be negotiated with, and their view of the world is irreconcilable with civilized society.
“I remain deeply concerned that despite the preponderance of evidence that proves ISIL is a fundamentally evil and dangerous terrorist threat to the United States, President Obama continues to appear unwilling to do what is necessary to confront ISIL and communicate clearly to the American people about the threat ISIL poses to our country and to our way of life.
“ISIL is not a problem for only Iraqis or Syrians to solve. A piecemeal approach will not eliminate the growing threat to the United States and our allies. If we do not do more to assist our Iraqi partners and those moderate Syrians who are fighting ISIL and directly target ISIL’s leadership and networks in Iraq and Syria, I fear that James Foley will not be the only American to die at their hands.”