Foley kidnappers demanded $132-million ransom

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WASHINGTON, D.C.: Journalist James Foley’s jihadist captors had demanded a ransom of 100 million euros—$132 million—for his release, his employer said on Thursday (Friday in Manila) after a video of the American’s gruesome execution was made public.

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Also, Pope Francis called the family of slain US journalist James Foley on Thursday to offer his condolences, a Catholic priest close to the family said.

“GlobalPost CEO [chief executive officer]Philip Balboni confirms that the initial ransom demand from Jim Foley’s captors was 100 million euros,” a spokesman for the news website told Agence France-Presse.

Foley was reporting from Syria for GlobalPost and other outlets including AFP when he was abducted in November 2012, and Balboni had been closely involved in efforts to locate and free the photojournalist.

The extremist group, which calls itself the Islamic State, has marauded across large areas of Iraq in recent months. On Tuesday it published a video showing one of its members beheading Foley.

Balboni said the captors made contact with GlobalPost and the Foley family fewer than half a dozen times, and “the kidnappers never really negotiated” over their huge sum, but simply made their demand.

“We never took the $100 million figure seriously,” Balboni told CNN.

Balboni said he and the family provided all information about their search for Foley and their contact with his captors to authorities at the Federal Bureau of Investigation and State Department.

The US government opposes paying such ransoms, arguing that it only encourages more hostage-taking.

“We do not make concessions to terrorists. That includes: We do not pay ransoms,” State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters on Thursday.

Such payouts, she added, would only serve to “fund and finance exactly the groups [whose capa-bilities]we are trying to degrade.”

Balboni referred to the release of several European hostages by Islamic State earlier this year, likely upon payment of ransoms that were “dramatically less” than what the group sought for Foley.

The family and GlobalPost were seeking to raise money “in the range” of the amount paid for the other hostage, Balboni added, without mentioning a dollar amount.

Harf referenced the other countries’ ransom payments to the group, saying that in 2014 alone they amounted to millions of dollars, although she too did not provide a figure.

And she stressed that the US government “does not have contact with ISIL,” referring to the old name of the Islamic State (IS), which is the Islamic Stage of Iraq and the Levant.

After initial messages and the ransom demand, Balboni said the line of communication with the jihadists went cold until August 13, when they sent a terrifying message to the Foleys that their son would be killed.

Pope calls family
The gruesome video of Foley’s beheading, released Tuesday by the IS, a jihadist group operating in Iraq and Syria, has caused worldwide revulsion and outrage.

Also on Thursday, the Pope called up Foley’s family and offered his sympathies.

“Pope Francis phoned the family of #JamesFoley this afternoon at their residence in New Hampshire. The family was ‘moved and grateful,’” Father James Martin, a Jesuit priest, wrote on Twitter.

AFP

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