The graphic video of James Foley’s murder was, for many in America and elsewhere, a grim introduction to the brutal world of the Islamic State.
Taken hostage while covering the civil war in Syria, the 40-year-old freelance journalist from Illinois was held for two years and became the first US citizen to be killed by the terror group.
His mother Diane, who set up a foundation advocating for the freedom of American hostages in memory of her son, told Sky News: “He was the eldest of our five children and nothing will replace him.”
She is “very grateful” for Alexanda Kotey’s guilty plea and that El Shafee Elsheikh was convicted after a trial in Virginia but his campaign is not over.
“I can’t give up when there are 59 American citizens wrongfully detained, suffering like Jim did… getting them back should be a priority,” she said.
Alexanda Kotey imprisoned for life in the United States
Ms Foley, who at times feared she would never see justice for her son, had campaigned for the so-called Islamic State ‘Beatles’ to be tried in a US court.
“This speaks to a very strong case for the US Department of Justice, the FBI and our friends at Scotland Yard working together. »
“This would not have happened without the cooperation of the US government, the UK government and our allies,” she said.
“It was a tough case. They were shrewd, they never allowed the hostages to see their faces, they had strict security protocols to protect their identities.
“It is a miracle in itself that the Syrian Democratic Forces were able to identify and arrest them,” she added.
In his last letter to his parents before his murder, James Foley spoke of his struggle to get through the “dark days” of his captivity in Syria.
The former schoolteacher turned journalist, who had gone to document the impact of war on citizens, said he held his family “in his heart”.
Eight years after his murder in the desert, he remains in their hearts as well. His mother told Sky News: “He is more alive than ever.
“His legacy lives on through his bravery and it is the legacy of all the American and British hostages who lost their lives.
“I hope their courage will continue to speak loud and clear for the United States to prioritize the return of our citizens who have been kidnapped or detained. »