The English-speaking militant who beheaded American journalist James Foley in a shocking and brutal video posted online days ago by the Islamic State terrorist organization is a British-born man from London known as John, online version of The Telegraph reported Thursday.
The report in the British website states that British and American intelligence agencies believe the man is the head of "a group of British jihadists who have specialized in hostage taking" and who are based in Raqqa, an Islamic State-controlled area of Syria.
According to The Telegraph, John is thought to be "well-educated, intelligent, but highly committed member of the extremist terror group." His group is nicknamed "The Beatles" by other militants due to their nationality, the report said.
Interpol said Thursday that Foley's execution shows the need for a coordinated international effort against the stream of foreign fighters joining extremists in the Middle East.
The international police agency said in a statement that Foley's death shows the "depravity" of the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq and "highlights the ongoing plight of other innocent people across the region."
British man seen in video of James Foley's execution
France-based Interpol is particularly concerned that the man who appears in the video of Foley's death may be British. Interpol says this highlights "the need for a multilateral response against the terror threat posed by radicalized transnational fighters travelling to conflict zones in the Middle East."
More than a thousand radicals from Europe have joined militant fighters in Syria and Iraq.
Meanwhile, US officials say President Barack Obama sent special operations troops to Syria this summer on a secret mission to rescue American hostages, including Foley, but they did not find them.
James Foley (Photo: AFP)
The rescue mission was authorized after intelligence agencies believed they had identified the location inside Syria where the hostages were being held, administration officials said Wednesday. But the several dozen special operations forces dropped by aircraft into Syria did not find them at that location and engaged in a firefight with Islamic State militants before departing, killing several militants. No Americans died but one sustained a minor injury when an aircraft was hit.
"The US government had what we believed was sufficient intelligence, and when the opportunity presented itself, the president authorized the Department of Defense to move aggressively to recover our citizens," said Lisa Monaco, Obama's top counterterrorism adviser, in a statement. "Unfortunately, that mission was ultimately not successful because the hostages were not present."
Officials revealed the rescue operation a day after the militants released a video showing the beheading of Foley and threatened to kill a second hostage, Steven Sotloff, if US airstrikes against the militants in Iraq continued.
Steven Sotloff is being held hostage by the Islamic State militants
Despite the militants' threats, the US launched a new barrage of airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Iraq Wednesday. The Obama administration did not rule out the prospect of a military operation in Syria to bring those responsible for Foley's death to justice.
Disclosure of the rescue mission marks the first time the US has revealed that American military personnel have been on the ground in Syria since a bloody civil war there broke out more than three years ago. Obama has resisted calls to insert the US military in the middle of Syria's war, a cautious approach his critics say has allowed the Islamic State to strengthen there and make gains across the border in Iraq.
Caitlin Hayden, spokeswoman for the White House National Security Council, said the administration never intended to disclose the operation. But she said the US went public Wednesday because a number of media outlets were preparing to report on the operation and the administration "would have no choice but to acknowledge it."
In a statement Wednesday night, Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said: "As we have said repeatedly, the United States government is committed to the safety and well-being of its citizens, particularly those suffering in captivity. In this case, we put the best of the United States military in harm's way to try and bring our citizens home."
It's unclear how many Americans the Special Forces attempted to rescue in Syria. While the officials who described the mission would not provide an exact number, other US officials, who were not authorized to speak publicly, have said Foley was one of at least four Americans held in Syria.
Like Foley, two others are believed to have been kidnapped by the Islamic State. The fourth, freelance journalist Austin Tice, disappeared in Syria in August 2012 and is believed to be in the custody of government forces in Syria.
Administration officials would not say specifically when or where the operation took place, citing the need to protect operational details in order to preserve the ability to carry out future rescue missions. They did say that nearly every branch of the military was involved and that the Special Forces on the ground were supported from the air by fixed wing, rotary and surveillance aircraft.
Obama has authorized previous military missions to rescue hostages. In 2009, Navy SEAL snipers carried out a daring sea operation to rescue an American ship captain held by Somali pirates in a lifeboat. And in 2012, special operations forces successfully rescued two aid workers -- an American and a Dane -- held in Somalia.