Wednesday 13 December 2017

Beheader jihadist 'dead man walking' as Britain considers ISIS airstrikes

Still image from undated video of a masked Islamic State militant U.S. journalist Steven Sotloff who has reportedly been beheaded.
Still image from undated video of a masked Islamic State militant U.S. journalist Steven Sotloff who has reportedly been beheaded.

Ellen Branagh

The British-accented jihadist believed to have beheaded two journalists is a "dead man walking", former security minister Lord West has said.

His comments came as it emerged that the UK Government is 'considering every option' to save the life of the hostage who is shown at the end of the beheading video of Stephen Sotloff.

Admiral Lord West of Spithead said military action should remain "on the table" when dealing with Islamic State extremists who had threatened British citizens and the British state.

Of the man responsible, Lord West said: "We probably know already who he is, we certainly will know soon.

The Islamic State released a video purporting to show the beheading of Sotloff
The Islamic State released a video purporting to show the beheading of Sotloff

"I would like to see him arraigned in the Hague for war crimes," he said, but said it was more likely that the United States would deal with him in the same way as Osama Bin Laden.

"He is a dead man walking, and he wants to think about that," he added.

Airstrikes are not being ruled oyt against ISIS , according to well placed sources.

Speaking after an emergency Cobra meeting chaired by the UK Prime Minister today, Philip Hammond confirmed there had been an unsuccessful US-led attempt at rescuing the British man shown in a video of the beheading of Steven Sotloff, an American journalist.

When asked what the UK could do in terms of attempting to extricate the British hostage, Mr Hammond responded: “You are aware of course of the rescue attempt that took place some time ago, unfortunately unsuccessfully.

“You wouldn’t expect me to discuss the various options we will be considering, but I can assure you we will look at every possible option to protect this person.”

US soldiers fought Isis fighters during a failed night time raid as they tried to rescue a number of hostages, including the late James Foley. The British person is understood to have been among those hostages, The Telegraph reports.

Sources would not comment on whether any British soldiers were involved in the failed raid.

The government has pledged to examine "every possible option" to protect the British hostage, the Foreign Secretary said today. However, while the UK government "will certainly consider" the possibility of air strikes, it has "made no decision to do so at the moment," Mr Hammond added.

"It doesn't make any difference at all to our strategic planning. As the Prime Minister said, we will look very carefully at the options available to us to support the legitimate government of Iraq and Kurdistan in defending themselves from Isis," he said.

"If we judge that air strikes could be beneficial, could be the best way to do that, then we will certainly consider them but we have made no decision to do so at the moment."

The US has launched air strikes on Isis targets in northern Iraq but Britain has not taken any military action thus far.

Mr Hammond also confirmed preliminary government analysis has shown the video is genuine.

In some of his first comments on the second beheading, President Obama condemned Mr Sotloff's murder as "a horrific act of violence" and insisted that the US would not be "intimidated" by militants' threats.

Speaking during a visit to Estonia, Mr Obama said: "Those who make the mistake of harming Americans will learn that we will not forget, that our reach is long and that justice will be served."

Video footage showing the beheading of Mr Sotloff by the suspected British killer of James Foley, the so-called ‘Jihadi John’, and a warning the British hostage will be next is placing David Cameron under increasing pressure to take action against Islamic State fighters.

At the end of the new clip, entitled 'A Second Message to America', an Isis fighter parades a third hostage, identified as a British man, and threatens to behead him unless Western governments “back off” from the “evil alliance of America against the Islamic State”.

The militant also warns President Obama: “Just as your missiles continue to strike our people, our knife will continue to strike the necks of your people.”

Downing Street confirmed on Tuesday the UK has been aware of a British hostage for some months. The British man’s family have asked that he not be named in the media.

The Prime Minister described Mr Sotloff’s death as “an absolutely disgusting and despicable act” upon hearing the news yesterday.

The US verified the video as authentic today, and said it “is sickened by this brutal act taking the life of another innocent American citizen”.

Meanwhile French President Francois Hollande raised the possibility on Wednesday of carrying out military action against Islamic State.

"The head of state underlined the importance of a political, humanitarian and, if necessary, military response that respects international law," Hollande's office said in a statement after he met with top military advisors.

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