WASHINGTON – American fighter jets and drones conducted nearly a dozen airstrikes in Iraq since Tuesday, a U.S. official said, even as Islamic State militants threatened to kill a second American captive in retribution for any continued attacks.
The strikes came in the hours after militants released a gruesome video Tuesday showing U.S. journalist James Foley being beheaded.
According to the official, the latest airstrikes were in the area of the Mosul Dam and were aimed at helping Iraqi and Kurdish forces create a buffer zone at the key facility. The strikes, which now total nearly 90 since operations began, have helped Iraqi and Kurdish troops reclaim the dam from the insurgents.
The militants threatened to kill a second American journalist, Steven Sotloff, who is being held captive in case of airstrikes. The official was not authorized to discuss the ongoing operations publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Foley, a 40-year-old journalist from Rochester, New Hampshire, went missing in northern Syria while freelancing for Agence France-Presse and the Boston-based media company GlobalPost. Officials have said the video appears authentic.
Released on websites Tuesday, the video shows a man in an orange jumpsuit kneeling in the desert, next to a black-clad militant with a knife to his throat. Foley’s name appears in both English and Arabic graphics on screen.
After the captive makes a statement, the masked man is shown apparently beginning to cut at the neck of the captive. The next shot appears to show the captive lying dead on the ground, his head on his body.
At the end of the video, a second man – identified as Sotloff – is shown and the militant warns that he could be next captive killed. Sotloff was kidnapped near the Syrian-Turkish border in August 2013 and freelanced for Time, the National Interest and MediaLine.