Obama: US won't stop confronting Islamic State

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Obama: US won't stop confronting Islamic State
President Barack Obama, right, meets with King Abdullah II of Jordan in the Oval Office of the White House, on Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2015, in Washington. The meeting comes after Jordanian Air Force pilot First Lt. Moaz al-Kasasbeh was executed by the Islamic State group. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Obama's National Prayer Breakfast speech Thursday was criticized after he compared the actions of ISIS to slavery in the U.S. and the Crusades.
Smoke rises from the Syrian town of Ain al-Arab, known as Kobane by the Kurds, after a US-led coalition strike as seen from the Turkish-Syrian border in the southeastern village of Mursitpinar in the Sanliurfa province on October 15, 2014. US-led aircraft will continue bombing near the Syrian town of Ain al-Arab (Kobane) and in western Iraq, President Barack Obama said after talks with military leaders from an international coalition fighting the Islamic State group. AFP PHOTO / ARIS MESSINIS (Photo credit should read ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama speaks about the report of a video released by the Islamic State depicting the killing of a Jordanian fighter pilot, during an unrelated meeting with Americans who say they have benefited from the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as 'Obamacare,' in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, DC, February 3, 2015. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
Smoke rises from the Syrian town of Ain al-Arab, known as Kobane by the Kurds, after a US-led coalition strike as seen from the Turkish-Syrian border in the southeastern village of Mursitpinar in the Sanliurfa province on October 15, 2014. US-led aircraft will continue bombing near the Syrian town of Ain al-Arab (Kobane) and in western Iraq, President Barack Obama said after talks with military leaders from an international coalition fighting the Islamic State group. AFP PHOTO / ARIS MESSINIS (Photo credit should read ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 13: US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel (L) testifies beside Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey (R), during the House Armed Services Committee hearing on the Obama administration's strategy and military campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL), at Capitol Hill in Washington DC, United States on November 13, 2014. (Photo by Erkan Avci/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 13: Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey testifies beside US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel (not seen), during the House Armed Services Committee hearing on the Obama administration's strategy and military campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL), at Capitol Hill in Washington DC, United States on November 13, 2014. (Photo by Erkan Avci/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Smoke rises from the Syrian town of Ain al-Arab, known as Kobane by the Kurds, after a US-led coalition strike as seen from the Turkish-Syrian border in the southeastern village of Mursitpinar in the Sanliurfa province on October 15, 2014. US-led aircraft will continue bombing near the Syrian town of Ain al-Arab (Kobane) and in western Iraq, President Barack Obama said after talks with military leaders from an international coalition fighting the Islamic State group. AFP PHOTO / ARIS MESSINIS (Photo credit should read ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama chairs a special meeting of the UN security council during the 69th Session of the UN General Assembly on September 24, 2014 in New York. Obama pitched an international counterterrorism resolution during his second appearance as chair of the United Nations Security Council. The president called on nations to stop the flow of foreign fighters to groups such as the Islamic State (IS) group, according to administration officials. AFP PHOTO / Timothy A. CLARY (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama arrives with Secretary of State John Kerry (rear) to chair a special meeting of the UN security council during the 69th Session of the UN General Assembly on September 24, 2014 in New York. Obama on Wednesday led the UN Security Council in unanimously approving a binding resolution on stemming the flow of foreign jihadists to Iraq and Syria. The resolution requires all countries to adopt laws that would make it a serious crime for their nationals to join jihadist groups such as Islamic State and Al-Nusra Front. AFP PHOTO / Timothy A. CLARY (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama delivers a prime time address from the Cross Hall of the White House on September 10, 2014 in Washington, DC. Vowing to target the Islamic State with air strikes 'wherever they exist', Obama pledged to lead a broad coalition to fight IS and work with 'partner forces' on the ground in Syria and Iraq. AFP PHOTO/POOL/Saul LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
US Secretary of State John Kerry looks out over Baghdad from a helicopter on September 10, 2014. Kerry flew into Iraq today for talks with its new leaders on their role in a long-awaited new strategy against Islamic State jihadists to be unveiled by President Barack Obama. AFP PHOTO/POOL/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
David Cameron, U.K. prime minister, left, and U.S. President Barack Obama, watch as the British Royal Air Force's (RAF) Red Arrows aerobatic team perform a flypast during the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) summit in Newport, U.K., on Friday, Sept. 5, 2014. Obama, after levying sharp criticism of Russian President Vladimir Putin and promising decisive action against Islamic State, is working to take advantage of growing international uneasiness to rally NATO into action. Photographer: Rowan Griffiths/Pool via Bloomberg
David Cameron, U.K. prime minister, left, and U.S. President Barack Obama, center, react as they talk with Traian Basescu, Romania's president, ahead of a flypast by the British Royal Air Force's (RAF) Red Arrows aerobatic team during the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) summit in Newport, U.K., on Friday, Sept. 5, 2014. Obama, after levying sharp criticism of Russian President Vladimir Putin and promising decisive action against Islamic State, is working to take advantage of growing international uneasiness to rally NATO into action. Photographer: Rowan Griffiths/Pool via Bloomberg
U.S. President Barack Obama pauses during a televised address at the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Sept. 10, 2014. Obama pledged a relentless campaign to destroy Islamic State extremists in Iraq and Syria, with Middle Eastern allies such as Saudi Arabia and Jordan playing crucial supporting roles. Photographer: Saul Loeb/Pool via Bloomberg
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during a televised address at the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Sept. 10, 2014. Obama pledged a relentless campaign to destroy Islamic State extremists in Iraq and Syria, with Middle Eastern allies such as Saudi Arabia and Jordan playing crucial supporting roles. Photographer: Saul Loeb/Pool via Bloomberg
U.S. President Barack Obama leaves after speaking during a televised address at the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Sept. 10, 2014. Obama pledged a relentless campaign to destroy Islamic State extremists in Iraq and Syria, with Middle Eastern allies such as Saudi Arabia and Jordan playing crucial supporting roles. Photographer: Saul Loeb/Pool via Bloomberg
David Cameron, U.K. prime minister, left, reacts as he talks with U.S. President Barack Obama, ahead of a flypast by the British Royal Air Force's (RAF) Red Arrows aerobatic team during the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) summit in Newport, U.K., on Friday, Sept. 5, 2014. Obama, after levying sharp criticism of Russian President Vladimir Putin and promising decisive action against Islamic State, is working to take advantage of growing international uneasiness to rally NATO into action. Photographer: Rowan Griffiths/Pool via Bloomberg
U.S. President Barack Obama, waits ahead of a flypast by the British Royal Air Force's (RAF) Red Arrows aerobatic team during the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) summit in Newport, U.K., on Friday, Sept. 5, 2014. Obama, after levying sharp criticism of Russian President Vladimir Putin and promising decisive action against Islamic State, is working to take advantage of growing international uneasiness to rally NATO into action. Photographer: Rowan Griffiths/Pool via Bloomberg
U.S. President Barack Obama, waits ahead of a flypast by the British Royal Air Force's (RAF) Red Arrows aerobatic team during the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) summit in Newport, U.K., on Friday, Sept. 5, 2014. Obama, after levying sharp criticism of Russian President Vladimir Putin and promising decisive action against Islamic State, is working to take advantage of growing international uneasiness to rally NATO into action. Photographer: Rowan Griffiths/Pool via Bloomberg
US President Barack Obama speaks at a press conference on the second day of the NATO 2014 Summit at the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport, South Wales, on September 5, 2014. The United States urged Western allies at a NATO summit Friday to unite in a coalition that could 'destroy' Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
President Barack Obama speaks in Edgartown, Mass., Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014, about the killing of American journalist James Foley by militants with the Islamic State extremist group. The president said the US will continue to confront Islamic State extremists despite the brutal murder of journalist James Foley. Obama said the entire world is "appalled" by Foley's killing. The president says he spoke Wednesday with Foley's family and offered condolences. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
President Barack Obama speaks in Edgartown, Mass., Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014, about the killing of American journalist James Foley by militants with the Islamic State extremist group. The president said the US will continue to confront Islamic State extremists despite the brutal murder of journalist James Foley. Obama said the entire world is "appalled" by Foley's killing. The president says he spoke Wednesday with Foley's family and offered condolences. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
President Barack Obama pauses as he speaks in Edgartown, Mass., Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014, about the killing of American journalist James Foley by militants with the Islamic State extremist group. The president said the US will continue to confront Islamic State extremists despite the brutal murder of journalist James Foley. Obama said the entire world is "appalled" by Foley's killing. The president says he spoke Wednesday with Foley's family and offered condolences. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
Diane and John Foley talk to reporters after speaking with U.S. President Barack Obama Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014 outside their home in Rochester, N.H. Their son, James Foley was abducted in November 2012 while covering the Syrian conflict. Islamic militants posted a video showing his murder on Tuesday and said they killed him because the U.S. had launched airstrikes in northern Iraq. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
John and Diane Foley talk to reporters after speaking with U.S. President Barack Obama Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014 outside their home in Rochester, N.H. Their son, James Foley was abducted in November 2012 while covering the Syrian conflict. Islamic militants posted a video showing his murder on Tuesday and said they killed him because the U.S. had launched airstrikes in northern Iraq. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
Diane and John Foley talk to reporters after speaking with U.S. President Barack Obama Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014 outside their home in Rochester, N.H. Their son, James Foley was abducted in November 2012 while covering the Syrian conflict. Islamic militants posted a video showing his murder on Tuesday and said they killed him because the U.S. had launched airstrikes in northern Iraq. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
US President Barack Obama makes a statement at Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, on August 20, 2014. The United States has carried out more air strikes in Iraq, a senior US defense official said, as Islamic militants threaten to execute a second US journalist. AFP PHOTO/Nicholas KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
FILE - In this Friday, May 27, 2011, file photo, journalist James Foley responds to questions during an interview with The Associated Press, in Boston. A video by Islamic State militants that purports to show the killing of Foley by the militant group was released Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014. Foley, from Rochester, N.H., went missing in 2012 in northern Syria while on assignment for Agence France-Press and the Boston-based media company GlobalPost. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)
FILE - In this May 27, 2011 file photo, American journalist James Foley, of Rochester, N.H., who was last seen on Nov. 22 2012 in northwest Syria, poses for a photo in Boston. Foley's family plans to mark his 40th birthday with a plea for his safe return. His parents, John and Diane Foley, will lead a prayer vigil Friday evening, Oct. 17, 2013 at a church in Rochester. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Parents of kidnapped journalist James Foley, Diane Foley and John Foley appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama gestures during a press conference on the second day of the NATO 2014 Summit at the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport, South Wales, on September 5, 2014. The United States urged Western allies at a NATO summit Friday to unite in a coalition that could 'destroy' Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
David Cameron, U.K. prime minister, left, and U.S. President Barack Obama, watch as the British Royal Air Force's (RAF) Red Arrows aerobatic team perform a flypast during the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) summit in Newport, U.K., on Friday, Sept. 5, 2014. Obama, after levying sharp criticism of Russian President Vladimir Putin and promising decisive action against Islamic State, is working to take advantage of growing international uneasiness to rally NATO into action. Photographer: Rowan Griffiths/Pool via Bloomberg
US President Barack Obama (R) shakes hands with Jordan's King Abdullah II prior to a meeting on the first day of the NATO 2014 summit at the Celtic Manor Hotel in Newport, South Wales, on September 4, 2014. The NATO summit billed as the most important since the Cold War got underway with calls to stand up to Russia over Ukraine and confront Islamic State extremists. AFP PHOTO/SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
British Prime Minister David Cameron (R), US President Barack Obama (2nd R) and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (3rd R) bow their heads during a moment of silence for killed service members in Afghanistan at the start of a meeting on Afghanistan during the NATO 2014 summit at the Celtic Manor Hotel in Newport, South Wales, on September 4, 2014. The NATO summit billed as the most important since the Cold War got underway with calls to stand up to Russia over Ukraine and confront Islamic State extremists. AFP PHOTO/SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama (L) meets with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen (C) as Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron looks on at the NATO 2014 summit at the Celtic Manor Hotel in Newport, South Wales, on September 4, 2014. A NATO summit billed as the most important since the Cold War got underway with calls to stand up to Russia over Ukraine and confront Islamic State extremists. AFP PHOTO/POOL/PETER MACDIARMID (Photo credit should read PETER MACDIARMID/AFP/Getty Images)
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By LARA JAKES

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The United States stood firm Wednesday in its fight against Islamic State militants who beheaded a U.S. journalist in Iraq, pledging to continue attacking the group despite its threats to kill another American hostage. President Barack Obama denounced the group as a "cancer" threatening the entire region as the administration weighed sending even more American troops to Iraq.

"We will be vigilant and we will be relentless," Obama said as the U.S. military pressed ahead with more airstrikes on Islamic State targets in Iraq.

The execution of journalist James Foley drew international condemnation, and western nations responded with stepped-up efforts to counter the threat posed by Islamic State. Germany announced it would supply the Kurds with weapons to fight the insurgent. Italy's defense minister said the country hopes to contribute machine guns, ammunition and anti-tank rockets. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said the killing showed the true face of this "caliphate of barbarism."

In capitals across the Middle East, by contrast, the news of Foley's death was met with silence, even in Syria and Iraq - the two countries where the Islamic State is strongest. On social media, people in the region condemned Foley's killing, but stressed that the Islamic State has been committing atrocities against Iraqis and Syrians for years.

The slain journalist's parents, Diane and John Foley, spoke to reporters outside their home in Rochester, New Hampshire, in an appearance where wrenching grief over their son's death mingled with laughter over his life.

Diane Foley said her son was courageous to the end and called his death "just evil."

"We are just very proud of Jimmy and we are praying for the strength to love like he did and keep courageous and keep fighting for all the people he was fighting for," Diane Foley said Wednesday. "We pray for all the remaining Americans."

Obama's remarks affirmed that the U.S. would not scale back its military posture in Iraq in response to Foley's killing. And at the State Department, spokeswoman Marie Harf did not rule out military operations in Syria to bring those responsible to justice, saying the U.S. "reserves the right to hold people accountable when they harm Americans. What that looks like going forward, those conversations will be happening."

Since the video was released Tuesday, the U.S. military has conducted 14 airstrikes on Islamic State targets. U.S. officials said military planners were considering the possibility of sending a small number of additional troops to Iraq, at the request of the State Department, mainly to provide additional security around Baghdad.

Obama said he'd told Foley's family in a phone call Wednesday that the United States joins them in honoring all that Foley did, praising the journalist for his work telling the story of the crisis in Syria, where Foley was captured in 2012. "Jim Foley's life stands in stark contrast to his killers," Obama said. He spoke from Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts, where his family is vacationing.

Foley, 40, went missing in northern Syria in November 2012 while freelancing for Agence France-Presse and the Boston-based media company GlobalPost. The car he was riding in was stopped by four militants in a contested battle zone that both Sunni rebel fighters and government forces were trying to control. He had not been heard from since.

"Today, the American people will all say a prayer for those who loved Jim," Obama said. "All of us feel the ache of his absence. All of us mourn his loss."

The beheading marks the first time the Islamic State has killed an American citizen since the Syrian conflict broke out in March 2011, upping the stakes in an increasingly chaotic and multilayered war. The killing is likely to complicate U.S. involvement in Iraq and the Obama administration's efforts to contain the group as it expands in both Iraq and Syria.

The group is the heir apparent of the militancy known as al-Qaida in Iraq, which beheaded many of its victims, including American businessman Nicholas Berg in 2004.

The video released on websites Tuesday appears to show the increasing sophistication of the Islamic State group's media unit and begins with scenes of Obama explaining his decision to order airstrikes.

It then cuts to Foley, kneeling in the desert. A masked militant is shown apparently beginning to cut at Foley's neck. The video fades to black before the beheading is completed; the next shot shows him lying dead.

The militant in the video has not been identified, but he spoke with a British accent, and British Prime Minister David Cameron said that "from what we have seen it looks increasingly likely that is a British citizen." U.S. officials agreed with that assessment.

Obama did not specifically mention Steven Sotloff, another kidnapped American journalist that Islamic State says could be killed next. But he offered prayers on behalf of the American people for "those other Americans who are separated from their families."

A man identified as Sotloff appears at the end of the Foley video in a similar orange jumpsuit. Sotloff was kidnapped near the Syrian-Turkish border in August 2013; he had freelanced for Time, the National Interest and MediaLine.

Tuesday's airstrikes by American fighter jets and drones centered on targets around the Mosul Dam and were designed to help Iraqi and Kurdish forces create a buffer zone at the key facility, according to a U.S. official. The official was not authorized to discuss the ongoing operations publicly so spoke on condition of anonymity.

Since Aug. 8, there have been 84 U.S. airstrikes in Iraq on Islamic State targets - including security checkpoints, vehicles and weapons caches. It's not clear how many militants have been killed in the strikes, although it's likely that some were.

The Islamic State militant group is so ruthless in its attacks against all people they consider heretics or infidels that it has been disowned by al-Qaida's leaders. In seeking to impose its harsh interpretation of Islamic law in the lands it is trying to control, the extremists have slain soldiers and civilians alike in horrifying ways - including mounting the decapitated heads of some of its victims on spikes.

Senators from both parties condemned the killing, and some Republicans questioned Obama's resolve in confronting the Islamic State.

"The United States must not cower to these terrorists' ruthless demands by remaining on the sidelines," said Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., a House Intelligence Committee member and former Army officer.

"ISIL has declared war on the United States, on the American people and on freedom loving people everywhere," added Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. He said Obama has been "unwilling to do what is necessary to confront ISIL."

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists says that more than 80 journalists have been abducted in Syria, and estimates that around 20 are currently missing there. It has not released their nationalities. In its annual report in November, the committee described the widespread seizure of journalists as unprecedented and largely unreported by news organizations in the hope that keeping the kidnappings out of public view may help in the captives' release.

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Associated Press writers Lolita C. Baldor, Bradley Klapper, Julie Pace and Josh Lederman in Washington, Jim Kuhnhenn in Massachusetts, Ryan Lucas in Beirut, Rik Stevens in Rochester, New Hampshire, and Zeina Karam in Beirut contributed to this report.


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