LONDON: The beheading of a British hostage by Islamic State militants was an “act of pure evil,” Prime Minister David Cameron said Sunday, vowing Britain will do all in its power to bring the killers to justice.
“This is a despicable and appalling murder of an innocent aid worker. It is an act of pure evil,” he said in a statement released by his Downing Street office.
“We will do everything in our power to hunt down these murderers and ensure they face justice, however long it takes.”
Cameron, who was seen entering Downing Street shortly before midnight Saturday, will chair a meeting of the government’s emergency Cobra committee early Sunday in response to an online video purportedly showing a masked militant killing British aid worker David Haines.
US President Barack Obama expressed solidarity with ally Britain, saying the “United States stands shoulder to shoulder tonight with our close friend and ally in grief and resolve.”
“The United States strongly condemns the barbaric murder of UK citizen David Haines by the terrorist group ISIL,” Obama said in a statement, using an alternate acronym for the group.
The Islamic State jihadist group claimed Saturday it beheaded Haines, in what would be the third such execution in recent weeks, after two US journalists were shown murdered.
The Islamist group released a video, available on the website of private terrorism monitoring group SITE, purportedly showing a masked militant beheading Haines.
The two-minute-27-second video titled “A Message to the Allies of America” blames Cameron for joining forces with the United States, which has said it is at “war” with the jihadists and launched air strikes against them in Iraq.
“You entered voluntarily into a coalition with the United States against the Islamic State, just as your predecessor Tony Blair did, following a trend amongst our British prime ministers who can’t find the courage to say no to the Americans,” the executioner says in the video.
The militant, who may be the same man as in the previous videos, told Britain the alliance will “accelerate your destruction” and will drag the British people into “another bloody and unwinnable war.”
He also threatens to execute another British hostage.
Scottish-born Haines, 44, was taken hostage in Syria in March 2013 and was threatened in a video released this month depicting the beheading by an IS militant of the US journalist Steven Sotloff.
The video appeared a day after the aid worker’s family on Saturday appealed to his captors to contact them.
Cameron tweeted that his “heart goes out to his family who have shown extraordinary courage and fortitude.”
Haines had been working for the Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development (ACTED), an international relief charity, and was previously involved in humanitarian work in the Balkans, parts of Africa and elsewhere in the Middle East.
Sotloff and fellow US journalist James Foley had also been kidnapped in Syria. IS released a video claiming Foley’s execution on August 19, and Sotloff’s two weeks later on September 2.
In a statement issued by the Foreign Office in London earlier Saturday, Haines’ family had appealed to his captors to contact them, saying the extremists had not responded to any of their attempts at communication.
“We are the family of David Haines. We have sent messages to you to which we have not received a reply. We are asking those holding David to make contact with us,” the family said.
The video is certain to intensify calls in Britain for Cameron to consider military action against IS in Iraq, and possibly even in Syria, but the prime minister will be wary of playing into the hands of the captors and escalating tensions.