U.S. Refused to Pay ISIL's Ransom Demands for James Foley

Steven Senn/AP file photo

As we learn more about the death of journalist James Foley, from the U.S. Special Forces' attempt to save him to the possible identity of his executioner, more information is being revealed about the context of his death.

ISIL, the radical Sunni group that has conquered large swaths of northern Iraq and Syria, executed him earlier this week, claiming it was in retaliation for the American-led airstrikes that have proven effective in stemming ISIL's offensive. (On Wednesday, President Obama said those airstrikes would continue).

Long before the dark bluster behind ISIL's rationale for killing an American civilian, there had reportedly been a call for a ransom. Philip Balboni, Foley's boss at GlobalPost, told The Wall Street Journal that the captors demanded 100 million euros in exchange for Foley's release. The New York Times reported the figure as $100 million USD, and says the captors also added other demands, including an exchange of prisoners being held by the United States.

As the Times reported:

The group pressed the United States to provide a multimillion-dollar ransom for his release, according to a representative of his family and a former hostage held alongside him. The United States — unlike several European countries that have funneled millions to the terror group to spare the lives of their citizens — refused to pay.

Balboni also told WCVB, that the family received an email last week — after the U.S. began its bombing campaign against ISIL — indicating that they were going to kill Foley. That email made no demands and was "full of rage," making no suggestion that he could be spared with a payment.

Over at Reuters, David Rohde, a reporter who was once held hostage by the Taliban himself, writes about the disparity between the United States and Europe vis-à-vis their policies on negotiating for hostages, which he says can save "European hostages but can doom the Americans."

One clear lesson that has emerged in recent years, however, is that security threats are more effectively countered by united American and European action. The divergent U.S. and European approach to abductions fails to deter captors or consistently safeguard victims. 

Terrorist groups like ISIL, and al-Qaeda and their affiliates have netted $125 million from kidnapping over the last six years, according to an earlier investigation by The New York Times, with more than half of that coming in the last year alone.

In the coming days, we'll likely be hearing more debates about this policy, especially as its perils are held in contrast to those of Europe's — especially as the world collectively hopes for a better outcome for the three Americans still said to be held by ISIL. One of them is Steven Sotloff, a TIME journalist, whom ISIL says it will kill if the airstrikes continue.

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