Identifying James Foley's Executioners

(Random photo of unnamed fighter from Tumbler page of Dutch fighter ChechClear.)

British authorities have not named the person standing beside James Foley in the ISIS execution video. They have said they are close to identifying him and refused to give names. On Meet the Press yesterday:

I think we are close. I've been in touch, obviously, in the last day or two with my colleagues at home. We're not yet in a position to say exactly who this is, but there is some very sophisticated voice identification technology and other measures that we have got which should allow us to be very clear about who this person is before very long.

The Sunday Times (UK) reported government officials have told them that security forces say a major suspect is former British rapper Abdel-Majed Abdel Bary. Fox news says an unnamed "western intelligence source" has confirmed Bary is the primary suspect. All other media reports seem to be quoting the Sunday Times.

Some news reports say Bary's voice matches up with that of the killer in the video. Other news sources quote different experts who say the voices don't match. [More....]

Bary's father was arrested on terror charges when he was six years old. His father was extradited to the U.S. in 2012. Bary traveled to Syria in May, 2013.

The other suspects from London being named in the media also arrived in Syria in mid to late 2013. They didn't go to join ISIS, that happened later. Many of them first joined some other group, and used the name Rayat al Tahweed.

Some of the suspects' twitter accounts are still up, such as Abu Abdullah Britani and Rayat al Taweed_1, who recently tweeted:

To all the journalists, I don't know who the masked man is that took off the head of foley. Thank you for understanding.

Here's a Rayat al Tahweed video -- the voice doesn't sound like the one in the video to me. Here's an interview with Abu Samayah al Britani. The voice doesn't sound the same to me. This one is called Soldier of Allah, a name used by Bary in which he appears a few times.

The voice in this Rawat al Tawheed video (English, 1.5 minutes long, no visual) sounds closer to me.

Also, Bary is right-handed and the man in the video is left-handed (unless that was staged too.) None of this group of recent Brit recruits is well-educated as recently released hostages have asserted about their English speaking guards.

Other journalists who were kidnapped and released in 2012 gave similar descriptions of their guards. But since this group didn't arrive in Syria until mid-2013, then went through a few months of training, and didn't become formally affiliated with ISIS until June or July, 2014, they can't be describing this group of guards.

Dutch freelance photographer, Jeroen Oerlemans was interviewed in July, 2012 by Mclatchy, and described his jailers as a Pakistani Brit who spoke good English and several Brits with a Birmingham accent. (New York Times here.)

Perhaps relevant (keep in mind I'm no expert and just connecting dots from many diverse sources): In August 2012 the Daily Mail interviewed released journalist John Cantlie. He describes the doctor, Shajul Islam, as one of his captors. Islam was charged, along with a brother, and the case collapsed on the eve of trial. But last week, in investigating the Foley killing, he was brought in for questioning -- perhaps because he could identify the man in the video. Also, his younger brother, Abu Qudamma a-Dousi aka Razul (Rz-Raz38) is one of the recent British ISIS fighters also said to be under investigation in the Foley execution video.

Foley was kidnapped in November,2012, well before ISIS declared the caliphate. So how did ISIS get ahold of him and Steven Sotloff? ? Were they kidnapped by the group Dr Islam was working for and turned over to ISIS to use to threaten the U.S. on the airstrikes?

Regardless of who is in the video, or when Foley was actually beheaded (how long before the video was filmed), it's pretty clear someone higher up in ISIS ordered the execution and the video. Who's in charge of prisons in Raqqa and Aleppo? A man hired by al Baghdadi himself -- Amr al-Absi, also known as Abu al-Athir al-Shami. His story (and that of his murdered brother, Faras al Ibsi) is here and here. All these events, from Foley's kidnapping to the foreign recruits, have at least one thing in common: The Turkish border.

In addition to taking the Taqba air base, ISIS' recent attacks have increasingly focused on moving towards the Turkish borders. Not only is Turkey how the young recruits enter Syria, it is a major supply route for commericial goods.

"The Turkish border is the only way to smuggle oil, weapons and foreign fighters into [Iraq and Syria]," said Dr Hisham al-Hashimi, an Iraqi expert on Isis. "If it's closed, it will cut three things: funding, an entrance for the foreign fighters and links to Europe which they are trying to open."

ISIS is not fighting Assad. It is trying to dominate the region to establish its Caliphate. There is a lot of speculation Assad has allowed ISIS to control Raqqa and Aleppo. Until this week, ISIS facilities weren't attacked by his planes. His attacks had been directed at the Free Syrian army which is trying to take him out, and which is now fighting both ISIS and Assad.

Instead of engaging in strikes in Syria as now being contemplated by Obama (following his approved surveillance flights) and which Assad is in agreement with if done with his approval, why not bypass him and focus on Turkey? The last person the U.S. should work with is Assad.

In any event, we shall soon learn who the masked man is in the Foley video. Maybe it's the rapper, maybe not. I won't be surprised if, as I've said before, and as more media reports now suggest, he was just a prop and not the person who executed Foley. While he and the cameraman may be accomplices who should be brought to justice, there's a much bigger picture to focus on.

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    Comment urging mass violence deleted (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by Jeralyn on Tue Aug 26, 2014 at 06:49:51 PM EST
    Jim, stop the baiting and do not urge mass killing on this site.

    Can't decide which is more troubling (5.00 / 2) (#20)
    by CaptHowdy on Wed Aug 27, 2014 at 10:06:31 AM EST
    That an American ISIS fighter was killed or that his name was Douglas MacArthur McCain

    I always thought (none / 0) (#1)
    by CaptHowdy on Tue Aug 26, 2014 at 10:07:26 AM EST
    You would have to be pretty stupid to have (apparently) plenty presumably professionally recorded examples of your voice around and give the CIA another in the act of committing a murder.  Excuse me an execution.

    Wow (none / 0) (#2)
    by CaptHowdy on Tue Aug 26, 2014 at 10:32:39 AM EST
    The masked man who beheaded journalist James Foley appears in a web video created in support of New Mexico Republican Senate candidate Allen Weh.

    The ad, released by the New Mexico Republican Party, is a combination of clips of President Barack Obama golfing and smiling paired with violence. The video also features Weh's opponent, Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM).

    Halfway through the one-minute video a still shot of Foley's not-yet-identified killer is displayed for a few seconds. Foley's image does not appear in the video, just the image of the jihadist, holding a knife.

    Text at the end of the video reads "to change Washington, you must change your Senator."

    Keep it classy, Republicans.

    Voice and video? (none / 0) (#3)
    by toggle on Tue Aug 26, 2014 at 04:15:30 PM EST
    Why do people think the voice heard on the video was recorded live? Considering how little sweat anyone shows, it seems obvious to me that they weren't out there in the 110-degree heat long enough to do a lot of takes. I don't see any reason to assume the voice and the body even belong to the same person.

    Agreed. (none / 0) (#5)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Tue Aug 26, 2014 at 04:22:11 PM EST
    He was wearing a microphone (none / 0) (#6)
    by Jeralyn on Tue Aug 26, 2014 at 06:48:39 PM EST
    As was Foley in the beginning (although Foley didn't have one on in the second part of the video.)

    He was (none / 0) (#12)
    by toggle on Tue Aug 26, 2014 at 08:16:59 PM EST
    And his gestures appear to match up with his speech. And there's what appears to be wind noise.

    But that doesn't mean it wasn't dubbed over. You can't see his mouth move to match what he's saying. And Foley doesn't seem to sweat much during the video which makes me think it was shot quickly. It's literally 110 degrees over there.

    I'm not saying there's proof the voice of the killer was dubbed, just that I just wouldn't rule it out.


    Another oddity in the video (none / 0) (#8)
    by Jeralyn on Tue Aug 26, 2014 at 07:13:22 PM EST
    The gunman appears left handed, but has a holster strapped to his body on the left side, with the gun butt sticking out at the top. (Here's a screengrab of it from the video.) If he was really is left handed, the holster would be on the other side. Look at the size of the gun, how could he possibly get it out with his left hand?

    Patel was keen to observe (none / 0) (#9)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Tue Aug 26, 2014 at 07:17:00 PM EST
    Patel was keen to observe that the knife being held by the man in the video has dimensions and style different from the knife left beside Foley's dead body and decapitated head. Furthermore, the man's pistol was holstered underneath his left armpit which suggests that he was right handed. However, the beheader who appeared in the video was left-handed.

    Some people are not rigidly right handed (none / 0) (#10)
    by Militarytracy on Tue Aug 26, 2014 at 07:18:19 PM EST
    Or left handed.

    Some people that are left handed, (5.00 / 1) (#16)
    by fishcamp on Tue Aug 26, 2014 at 09:59:09 PM EST
    like me, are able to cross draw very fast with either hand quite   effectively.  Most serious shooters practice with both hands.  

    In snowboarding if you are right handed (none / 0) (#19)
    by Militarytracy on Wed Aug 27, 2014 at 06:33:50 AM EST
    You are supposed to lead with your right foot.  But I want to lead with my left foot.  This made lessons a little challenging until an instructor realized I was "goofy footed".  I can lead with either foot, and change which foot I lead with in mid slope.  So everyone's brain dominance it seems to me is pretty singular.

    And as you point out training also factors in.


    Jeralyn (none / 0) (#18)
    by jimakaPPJ on Tue Aug 26, 2014 at 10:42:20 PM EST
    What I was saying is that it is time that we go to war.

    That's the only thing that will stop these people.


    Still not seeing any evidence (none / 0) (#11)
    by Jack203 on Tue Aug 26, 2014 at 08:14:28 PM EST
    ISIS took back the Mosul Dam.

    This would be huge news.
    It would mean ISIS is shaking off the US Peshmerga alliance like a bad case of fleas.

    It would be completely shocking.

    Patrick Coburn on ISIS (none / 0) (#13)
    by squeaky on Tue Aug 26, 2014 at 09:06:41 PM EST
    Not a pretty picture... and looks like it is going to get much, much worse..
    Like the Shia leaders in Baghdad, the US and its allies have responded to the rise of Isis by descending into fantasy. They pretend they are fostering a `third force' of moderate Syrian rebels to fight both Assad and Isis, though in private Western diplomats admit this group doesn't really exist outside a few beleaguered pockets. Aymenn al-Tamimi confirms that this Western-backed opposition `is getting weaker and weaker'; he believes supplying them with more weapons won't make much difference. ...

    The foster parents of Isis and the other Sunni jihadi movements in Iraq and Syria are Saudi Arabia, the Gulf monarchies and Turkey. This doesn't mean the jihadis didn't have strong indigenous roots, but their rise was crucially supported by outside Sunni powers. The Saudi and Qatari aid was primarily financial, usually through private donations, which Richard Dearlove, the former head of MI6, says were central to the Isis takeover of Sunni provinces in northern Iraq: `Such things do not happen spontaneously.' In a speech in London in July, he said the Saudi policy towards jihadis has two contradictory motives: fear of jihadis operating within Saudi Arabia, and a desire to use them against Shia powers abroad...

    For America, Britain and the Western powers, the rise of Isis and the Caliphate is the ultimate disaster. Whatever they intended by their invasion of Iraq in 2003 and their efforts to get rid of Assad in Syria since 2011, it was not to see the creation of a jihadi state spanning northern Iraq and Syria run by a movement a hundred times bigger and much better organised than the al-Qaida of Osama bin Laden.

    The war on terror for which civil liberties have been curtailed and hundreds of billions of dollars spent has failed miserably. The belief that Isis is interested only in `Muslim against Muslim' struggles is another instance of wishful thinking: Isis has shown it will fight anybody who doesn't adhere to its bigoted, puritanical and violent variant of Islam. Where Isis differs from al-Qaida is that it's a well-run military organisation that is very careful in choosing its targets and the optimum moment to attack them

    London Review of Books

    And, what that all means (none / 0) (#14)
    by NYShooter on Tue Aug 26, 2014 at 09:21:46 PM EST
    Is that the occasional, minor actions like providing air cover for moves on the ground are, A, doomed to fail, and, B, actually work in ISIS's favor.

    Yes (none / 0) (#15)
    by squeaky on Tue Aug 26, 2014 at 09:50:00 PM EST
    Think of the new "caliphate" of the Islamic State, formerly the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), as George W. Bush and Dick Cheney's gift to the world (with a helping hand from the Saudis and other financiers of extremism in the Persian Gulf).


    There is a pretense in Washington and elsewhere that there exists a "moderate" Syrian opposition being helped by the U.S., Qatar, Turkey, and the Saudis.  It is, however, weak and getting more so by the day. Soon the new caliphate may stretch from the Iranian border to the Mediterranean and the only force that can possibly stop this from happening is the Syrian army.

    Patrick Cockburn; The Jihadis Return

    Fascinating stuff (5.00 / 2) (#17)
    by NYShooter on Tue Aug 26, 2014 at 10:36:41 PM EST
    This reminds me of the time when I was kid, and, started a fire in our house. A buddy and I were playing in the bathroom by bunching up some toilet paper, lighting it, and then tossing it into the bowl. It was all great fun until the flames of one of the burning balls got high enough to light the uplifted wooden seat on fire. Being kids, of course, we panicked, filled a glass with water, and, tossed it onto the seat. But, by then, the fire had grown exponentially, and, had ignited both the seat and the lid.
    Realizing it was out of control, and, not knowing what else to do, we did the only thing we could. We screamed our lungs off.

    Thankfully, Dad was in the house. When he saw what was happening he grabbed a towel and beat the flames into submission.

    I don't know why, but, this early stage of the ISIS Saga just reminds me of that first burning ball.

    The Western world sure could use some grown ups right about now.

    Where are you, Dad?