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20 Sep, 2014 11:55

Wanted: US puts $10 million bounty on killers of journalists

Wanted: US puts $10 million bounty on killers of journalists

Although the parents of slain journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff were warned of possible federal charges if they paid a ransom to their jihadist captors, the US Senate has approved a reward for information on the killers.

Just before leaving for a seven-week recess, the US Senate unanimously passed legislation that allocates $10 million for any information leading to the capture of individuals who participated in the beheading of two American journalists this month.

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Members of the Islamic State, a Sunni militant group that has captured large swaths of territory in northern Iraq and Syria, published videos in August and September that allege to depict the beheadings of James Foley and Steven Sotloff, two American journalists who were abducted and eventually executed by jihadists.

The actual moment of the beheadings, however, was censored from the videos, a point that has perplexed some experts given the purported savagery of the militants, who have even been accused of beheading Christian babies. In any case, US Senators came out in unanimous support for the reward placed on the killers.

“One way we can honor the memories of James Foley and Steven Sotloff is to bring their evil murderers to justice, which this measure will help do,” Senator Marco Rubio said Friday.

Rubio emphasized it was vital to reinforce the message “that the United States will work tirelessly to ensure that the deaths of these beloved journalists do not go unpunished.”

The next stop for the legislation is the House of Representatives before it heads to President Obama’s desk for his signature, which is unlikely to happen until after November’s mid-term elections.

A man holds up a sign in memory of U.S. journalist James Foley during a protest against the Assad regime in Syria in Times Square in New York August 22, 2014 (Reuters / Carlo Allegri)

Bounty allowed, but not ransoms

The announcement of a multi-million dollar bounty for the killers will likely prompt criticism considering that past efforts to secure the release of Foley and Sotloff with ransoms to their captors were rejected by US officials.

The families of the murdered journalists were warned by federal officials that they could face criminal charges if they attempted to pay the Islamic State a ransom.

"We were told that several times and we took it as a threat and it was appalling," Foley's mother Diane said in an interview with ABC News.

The Sotloffs "heard the same thing the Foleys did," their spokesman said in a statement.

The White House believes that paying ransom to the militant group would place more Americans in danger.

"We have found that terrorist organizations use hostage taking and ransoms as a critical source of financing for their organizations and that paying ransoms only puts other Americans in a position where they're at even greater risk," White House press secretary Josh Earnest said at a press briefing.

Announcing a military campaign last week to destroy the fundamentalist organization, US President Barack Obama called the murders of Foley and Sotloff "acts of barbarism."

James Foley was abducted on November 22, 2012 as he was leaving an internet café in northwest Syria. Foley's captors demanded 100 million euros in ransom (132 million US dollars) in exchange for his release.

On August 19, 2014, a video appeared on YouTube entitled "A Message to America," which shows Foley kneeling in the sand at an undisclosed location with a masked individual, dubbed ‘Jihadi John’ in the media due to his London-English accent. The actual moment of the beheading in both the Foely and Sotloff videos is never shown.

Steven Sotloff was abducted on August 4, 2013, near Aleppo, after crossing the Syrian border from Turkey. In early September, another video emerged that shows Sotloff together with a man who appears to be the same masked individual that killed Foley exactly two weeks earlier.