LONDON (USA TODAY) — The apparent beheading of American journalist James Foley by an Islamic State militant may have been undertaken by a British national, the United Kingdom's Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond conceded Wednesday.
In an interview with the BBC, Hammond acknowledged that the militant shown in the unverified video with Foley — seized in Syria in 2012 — spoke with a British accent and that it's possible the perpetrator of the shocking killing, if confirmed, could be a Briton, he said. He said the video appeared to be genuine.
However, the video's authenticity has still not been independently verified and the purported executor's identity is not known.
"We're absolutely aware that there are significant numbers of British nationals involved in terrible crimes, probably in the commission of atrocities, making jihad with IS and other extremists organisations," Hammond told the BBC.
"This is something we have been tracking and dealing with for many many months and I don't think this video changes anything," he said. "It just heightens awareness of a situation which is very grave."
British Prime Minister David Cameron's office said in a statement Wednesday that, "If true, the brutal murder of James Foley is shocking and depraved."
Downing Street said Cameron was cutting short his vacation and returning to the capital to discuss the situation in Iraq and Syria and the threats posed by IS.
In 2002, Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl was abducted and killed in Pakistan by British national Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh.