Speed Reads

The Banality of Evil

Report: ISIS wanted cash, not policy changes, for James Foley's release

When a masked Briton murdered U.S. journalist James Foley on camera, he said it was in retaliation for U.S. airstrikes on Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) targets, and threatened to execute another American captive unless President Obama stopped the attacks. In fact, ISIS wanted something more mundane, $100 million in ransom, a Foley family representative and a former fellow hostage tell The New York Times.

ISIS had other demands for the release of Foley and the three other Americans it is holding captive, including a prisoner swap, but the U.S. refused to pay the ransom. Britain also refused, and ISIS is also holding British citizens hostage. Other European government paid ISIS ransom to secure the release of their citizens. Al Qaeda and its affiliates have extorted at least $125 million in ransom from European governments in the past five years, according to a Times investigation, and kidnapping is now a major source of revenue for Islamist militants.