Britain Says It’s Close to Identifying Beheading Suspect

(Reuters) -

Britain is close to identifying a suspected British national shown beheading American journalist James Foley in a video released by Islamic State terrorists last week, the British ambassador to the United States said on Sunday.

With Islamic State now in control of vast areas of northern Iraq, the country’s president-designate, Haider al-Abadi, used a meeting with the visiting Iranian foreign minister to call for greater international efforts to destroy the Islamist group.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif of Iran, a Shi’ite Muslim power likely to wield influence over the formation of Abadi’s new cabinet, reaffirmed Tehran’s support for Iraq’s territorial unity and its fight against the insurgents.

Iran and Iraq fought a bloody eight-year war during the 1980s, but Shi’ite Tehran forged close ties with the Shi’ite-led governments that have dominated Iraq since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003.

Horrific Video

The horrific video showing the killing of Foley last week, together with a threat to kill another American journalist being held hostage, Steven Sotloff, inspired widespread revulsion in the West and a desire to hunt down the killer.

The masked knifeman shown in the video spoke English with a London accent and security services have launched a major attempt to find out who he is by analyzing the video and seeking to identify him from among the estimated 500 Britons believed to have gone to join the jihadists in Iraq and Syria.

Britain’s ambassador to the United States, Peter Westmacott, told CNN that Britain was putting a great deal of resources into identifying the suspect, including voice-recognition technology.

He said he could not give more details, but added: “I do know from my colleagues at home that we are close.”   

Former hostages of Islamic State have suggested that the man in the video is one of a group of British Islamists assigned to guard foreign prisoners.

The British government said it had appointed its senior defense adviser for the Middle East as a security envoy to the Iraqi Kurdistan to help Kurdish and Iraqi efforts to defeat Islamic State.