The gruesome execution of U.S. journalist, James Foley, sent shockwaves throughout the international community, as outrage and fear spread rapidly through social media outlets. Many had not known whether James was alive prior to the execution and his whereabouts were ambiguous. James’ family waited an agonizing 600 days for answers – no one knew his whereabouts. The only information they received was a tip from the people in Syria’s northwestern province of Idlib, claiming to have seen James in the city of Binnish on the day of his disappearance.

Binnish is one of Idlib’s most densely populated cities, with almost 50,000 Syrians within its borders. Binnish was one of the first cities to fall to the FSA in 2011 and it soon became a stronghold for the Syrian Opposition. Liwaa’ Dawud was the group delegated the responsibility to protect the city. Liwaa’ Dawud gained considerable notoriety for their siege and capture of Taftanaz Airbase, east of Binnish.  When James Foley went missing, Liwaa’ Dawud was present in the city.

For almost one year, activists demanded James’ release by the Syrian authorities – the Syrian Government denied his detention. Something was rather peculiar about this case from the get-go. For one, Liwaa’ Dawud were armed with U.S. manufactured weapons. At the time, the group was considered moderate and not a threat. In early July 2014, Liwaa’ Dawud announced that it officially joined forces with the Islamic State; going from moderate to extremist almost instantly. Unbeknownst to most; this change of allegiance may have ultimately led to James Foley’s fate.

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If James Foley was kidnapped by Liwaa’ Dawud, wouldn’t the Syrian Opposition forces be aware of this? 

It is highly likely since Liwaa’ Dawud is a force of at least 1,000 men and located in one of the strongholds for the Syrian Opposition. However, it is well-documented that members of the Syrian National Council (SNC) have visited the province of Idlib on numerous occasions, leading one to question why information on James Foley’s whereabouts were kept hidden from his family.

Former SNC leader, Ahmad Al-Jarba visiting Idlib in early 2014.
Former SNC leader, Ahmad Al-Jarba, visiting Idlib in early 2014.

If James Foley was, in fact, kidnapped by Liwaa’ Dawud, how was he transported to Iraq? 

This is an imperative question that needs to be addressed. Regardless of who kidnapped James Foley, he ended up detained by the Islamic State. So, if Liwaa’ Dawud kidnapped James Foley, they would have had to travel to the nearest Islamic State stronghold; which, in this case, was the Ar-Raqqa Governate, located east of Idlib. Many Syrian Arab Army and Islamic Front checkpoints are located all over the countryside leading to Ar-Raqqa; it is plausible that one side allowed them to travel through their checkpoints. Without further information; it is too difficult to determine who could have allowed the transfer.

It is still unclear who kidnapped James Foley; perhaps, it was Liwaa’ Dawud, however, no statements have been released indicting any group for working with the Islamic State. U.S. President, Barack Obama did issue a public statement condemning the heinous crime by the Islamic State, along with his pledge to combat the terrorist group.

James Foley lived a remarkable life, filled with honesty and devotion – a devotion that led James to the most dangerous areas of the world to bring awareness to the plight of civilians in volatile countries. James’ was not politically aligned with any group, nor was he attempting to spread a political message; his message was solely to humanity. If anything, we have learned through dehumanizing events that we find solace in one another in times of war – especially, in a war absent of conscience.

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