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Sunday 8 December 2019

Grisly goals of ruthless killers are all too clear

David Blair

Question: What are Isil's objectives?

Answer: The traditional goal of the hostage-taker is to extort money through ransoms or change policy through blackmail. Isil is only interested in the latter. In the video of Steven Sotloff's murder, the masked man who apparently carries out the killing says that he is taking revenge for America's "arrogant" policy. This is presumably a reference to the air strikes which the US carried out against Isil fighters, designed to halt their advance through northern Iraq. Sotloff's murder is presented as retaliation for this. The video closes with a threat to kill another hostage, believed to be British, if the US campaign continues - or if other countries join the effort. "We take this opportunity to warn those governments that enter this evil alliance of America against the Islamic State to back off," says the killer.

Question: Why not ransom the hostages instead?

 Partly because Isil has plenty of money anyway. The movement controls oilfields in eastern Syria and a branch of the Iraqi central bank in the northern city of Mosul. Together, those assets have yielded a war-chest filled with hundreds of millions of dollars - if not billions. As one of the richest terrorist movements in history, Isil has no need for ransoms. In any case, the US government will not bargain for hostages - and American companies would risk prosecution if they tried to do so. Instead, Isil want to intimidate Western decision-makers and, in the eyes of the terrorists, force America to pay a price for its recent air strikes.

Question: What else does Isil stand to gain?

Killing Western captives is guaranteed to draw publicity. (© Daily Telegraph)

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