The parents of slain journalist James Foley said they had hoped to negotiate with ISIS terrorists before their son was executed and his killing broadcast in a YouTube video.
“I didn’t realize how brutal they were and I actually hoped we would engage in negotiations with them if they were willing to send us any sort of communication because we had none prior,” John Foley said on NBC’s “Today” show Friday.
The group sent John and Diane Foley an email on Aug. 12, stating that their son would be “executed.” It was the first communication the Foleys received from the captors since December 2013. On Aug. 19, ISIS posted a video claiming responsibility for Foley's beheading.
A French journalist who was released in April and shared a cell with Foley reportedly said he was singled out for abuse because he was American. Yet Foley was said to be a source of comfort and strength for other captives.
“Jim’s courage and particularly his compassion and love in that box, which they called it, was an answer to prayer,” said Diane Foley. “We had so many people praying for Jimmy. We had begged for prayer but we didn’t need to. Everyone was so good in praying and Jim’s strength and love was the answer to prayer.”
U.S. special operations units were sent into Syria this summer to rescue Foley and other hostages, but the mission was unsuccessful because the hostages were not where they were expected to be, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Thursday.
President Barack Obama denounced Foley's execution and pledged to continue to "do what is necessary" to protect Americans and support the Iraqi forces fighting back ISIS.
The Foleys said Friday they were deeply moved that Pope Francis called them after three of his relatives were killed in a car accident in Argentina.
“Pope Francis was so dear because he is grieving himself having just lost three members of his family, his nephew critically ill, so here in the midst of his tremendous grief he took the time to call and our whole family was there,” Diane Foley said.
The parents vowed to keep their son’s legacy alive and said they are praying for the release of Steven Sotloff, another American journalist held captive by ISIS, as well as other hostages.
“We pray that they are set free and Jim will live on we are going to establish a fund in his memory so that his compassion can live on,” Diane Foley said.