According to British media reports, U.K. intelligence agencies may have identified the man who beheaded American journalist James Foley in the horrible video released last week. Britain’s ambassador to the United States, Peter Westmacott, said officials were “close” to identifying the man with an obvious British accent, 23-year-old London rapper Abdel Majed Abdel Bary being the suspect believed to be Foley’s executioner.
Bary, sometimes called Britain’s “hip-hop jihadist,” has a bunch of rap videos on YouTube. He even had one song on the U.K.’s popular BBC Radio 1 station. Bary’s father is Egyptian-born, and was extradited from London to the United States in 2012 for his alleged connection to Osama bin Laden and the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in Africa.
Bary traveled to Syria last year in order to fight with ISIS. Three men known as John, George, and Ringo, in a word, The Beatles, had formed a special kidnapping gang that may have targeted Westerners like Foley.
The hostages regarded the group as particularly vicious jailers, who routinely beat prisoners and tortured them with Tasers. Moreover, the video showing Foley’s beheading might have been staged, with the actual murder taking place behind camera, according to forensic analysis.
An international forensic science company that has worked for police forces across Britain carried out the study of the four-minute 40-second clip. No one is questioning that the photojournalist was beheaded, but it appears that by somebody else. “I think it has been staged,” said one expert in visual forensics. “My feeling is that the execution may have happened after the camera was stopped.”
First of all no blood can be seen, despite the fact that the knife is drawn across the neck area at least six times. Secondly, sounds made by Foley do not appear consistent with what may be expected in such a situation. According to the forensic analysis, no incision could be seen on Foley’s neck, though the right hand of the jihadist partially blocked the shot. The next shot is of Foley’s decapitated body, with his severed and blood-covered head on his upturned back. Apart from that, Foley’s words, which run for one minute and 24 seconds, appear to have been scripted.
The analysis highlighted a blip in the imagery that could indicate the journalist had to repeat a line. The masked jihadist on the other hand spoke the words himself, even though his mouth is obscured by his headscarf.
Steven Joel Sotloff, a photojournalist and former University of Central Florida student, is still kept a hostage by the terrorist group and was threatened with death in the same video. On Sunday, another kidnapped American journalist was released. Peter Theo Curtis, 45, who writes under the name Theo Padnos, had been held by the al-Nusra Front, a branch of al-Qaeda in Syria.