WASHINGTON (AP) — The Islamic State militants who beheaded American journalist James Foley in Syria had demanded $132.5 million — or 100 million Euros— in ransom for his release, a U.S. official said Thursday.
The demands were sent in emails to Foley’s family in New Hampshire, a second U.S. official said. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the ransom demands by name.
Foley’s former employer said that the militants first demanded money late last year. GlobalPost CEO Philip Balboni also indicated that European governments paid far less to have the Islamic State release their hostages.
The United States reaffirmed its policy against paying ransoms after Foley’s slaying. Militants have threatened to kill a second hostage, Steven Sotloff, if U.S. airstrikes against the militants in Iraq continued. More airstrikes have targeted militants in the days since Foley’s death was revealed.
In a statement Thursday, Treasury Department said that the government stands by its policy of no concessions to terror groups like the Islamic State. Paying ransoms only encourages more kidnappings, the department said.
The United States and Britain said the payment of ransoms by European and Persian Gulf governments has become a main funder of Islamic extremist groups.
A secret mission aimed this summer to rescue American hostages held by Islamic State extremists, including Foley, but U.S. troops failed to find them, the administration has said. President Barack Obama sent the special operations troops to Syria after intelligence agencies believed they had identified where the hostages were being held.
Obama has said the U.S. would “do what we must to protect our people,” but he has stopped short of promising to follow the Islamic State in its haven within Syria. At the same time, the State Department has refused to rule out future U.S. military operations in Syria, where Obama has long resisted intervening in a three-year civil war.