Islamic State 'Holding Up to 20 Westerners' Hostage

World | August 22, 2014, Friday // 09:11|  views

US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has said at a press conference that IS are "as sophisticated and well-funded as any group we have seen". Photo by EPA/BGNES

The US is mulling a response to Islamic State after a video showed the beheading of James Foley, amid reports the group could be holding more people.

Britain's Daily Telegraph has revealed that, apart from journalist Steven Sotloff, who was also in the footage published by IS, a number of aid workers are also being held hostage, with two Italians, 21-year-old Vanessa Marzullo and 20-year-old Greta Ramelli reportedly among them.

Italy's Foreign Ministry has declined to comment on whether they are in the hands of IS.

A total of three aid workers employed by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) were abducted by Islamist fighters last autumn.

It was revealed late on Wednesday that the US had recently an unsuccessful operation aimed at releasing James Foley and other hostages.

Washington has launched a formal investigation into Foley's death, while London is seeking to establish the identity of the insurgent standing behind Foley in the video.
Reports cited by the BBC suggest he is from London or the south-east of England.

As for other people held in captivity, US officials have ruled out paying ransoms as an option to save hostages' lives, after reports emerged that a EUR 100 M ransom had been demanded for Foley.

US State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf has made clear that Washington "does not make any concessions to terrorists".

The US is meanwhile pursuing its airstrike campaign across Iraq which has been ongoing for two weeks now.

As of August 21, a total of 90 strikes have been carried out, with 57 of them having a single target - Mosul dam.

Martin Dempsey, the US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has nevertheless warned that it will be impossible to defeat IS if the raids do not include their base in Syria.

"Can they be defeated without addressing that part of their organization which resides in Syria? The answer is no. That will have to be addressed on both sides of what is essentially at this point a non-existent border," Dempsey was quoted as saying.

US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who has not ruled out such an option, has called IS "an imminent threat to every interest" his country has, "whether it's in Iraq or anywhere else".

Al Jazeera quotes him as saying that the group is "as sophisticated and well-funded as any group we have seen".

"They are beyond just a terrorist group. They marry ideology, a sophistication of ... military prowess. They are tremendously well-funded. This is beyond anything we've seen."

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Tags: Martin Dempsey, Chuck Hagel, Syria, Iraq, Steven Sotloff, James Foley, ICRC, IS, marie harf


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