(Reuters) – A British Muslim leader called for action on Thursday to tackle a jihadi sub-culture after an Islamic State video showed a suspected Briton beheading U.S. journalist James Foley, held hostage in Syria.
In Washington, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the threat from Islamic State was “beyond anything we’ve seen” and the U.S. Justice Department opened a criminal investigation into the death of Foley on the video, which featured a masked man speaking English with a British accent.
As Western officials tried to identify the man, the Muslim Council of Britain denounced Foley’s “abhorrent murder” and one of its advisers urged anyone who knows the killer’s identity to contact the police.
Horror at the video spanned from the West to Baghdad, where Iraqis asked why the United States and its allies had not cracked down on Islamic State fighters long before they captured large areas of Syria and Iraq.
Foley, 40, was beheaded by an Islamic State militant in the video that surfaced on the Internet on Tuesday, and officials in Washington revealed that U.S. special forces had tried unsuccessfully to rescue him along with other American hostages earlier this summer.
A firefight between the U.S. forces and Islamic State militants during the rescue attempt appeared to be the first direct ground engagement between the two sides.
The video caused particular shock in Britain, which is home to about 2.7 million Muslims, although the hundreds of British men fighting alongside the militants in Iraq and Syriahave created concern for some time.