WASHINGTON - The murder of American journalist James Foley by jihadist militants in Syria was a "terrorist attack" against the United States, the White House said Friday.
"When you see somebody killed in such a horrific way, that represents a terrorist attack - that represents a terrorist attack against our country and against an American citizen," Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes said.
Rhodes, speaking three days after Islamic extremists released a video of Foley's beheading, said the execution "represented an affront - an attack not just him, but he's an American, and we see that as an attack on our country when one of our own is killed like that." Rhodes also said that paying ransom to free hostages is "not the right policy." Washington "will not provide funds for terrorist organisms," Rhodes said, confirming a long-standing Washington policy amid claims from Islamic State jihadists that other countries had paid to have their nationals freed.
"We feel very strongly that it is not the right policy for governments to support the payment of ransom to terrorist organisations.
"In the long run ... it provides additional funding to these terrorist organisations, which allows them to expand their operations." Washington believes that by paying ransom "it only creates perverse incentives for those terrorist organisations going forward, and a source of funding. And we want to cut off and choke off their sources of funding." He added that there was "a small number" of US hostages - without giving specific figures - being held in Syria, "and we're going to continue to do whatever we can to try to bring them home." On Thursday, US defence leaders said that the IS poses a greater danger than a conventional "terrorist group" and is pursuing a vision that could radically alter the face of the Middle East.
The IS militants could be contained and eventually defeated by local forces backed by the United States, but the Sunni population in both Syria and Iraq would need to reject the group, Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel and General Martin Dempsey told reporters.