A video showing Islamic State militants beheading a US photojournalist appears to be genuine, Britain said on Wednesday.
British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said that, while the video has not yet been verified, “all the hallmarks point to it being genuine”.
US photojournalist James Foley, 40, went missing in Syria in November 2012. The video released on Tuesday showed an extremist with a British accent beheading Foley.
Hammond said an expert analysis was also needed to verify if the executioner was British.
“We have been saying for a long time that there are a significant number of British nationals in Syria and Iraq operating with extremist organisations,” Hammond told the BBC.
British Prime Minister David Cameron was returning on Wednesday to Downing Street in London to meet with officials on Foley’s murder.
The United States said the intelligence community was working to determine the authenticity of the video.
Foley’s mother, Diane Foley, said in a message posted on Facebook: “We have never been prouder of our son Jim. He gave his life trying to expose the world to the suffering of the Syrian people.”
The message continued: “We implore the kidnappers to spare the lives of the remaining hostages. Like Jim, they are innocents. They have no control over American government policy in Iraq, Syria or anywhere in the world.”
International press freedom group Reporters Without Borders said it was “appalled” by the video.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, which condemned the “barbaric murder” of Foley, said at least 69 other journalists have been killed covering the conflict in Syria.
In the video, the extremists also threatened to kill another US journalist in their captivity, identified as Steven Joel Sotloff.
Sotloff was seen standing alive next to Foley’s body in the video. The executioner said Sotloff’s fate depended on whether US President Barack Obama stops interfering with the Islamic State’s creation of a caliphate, an apparent reference to the US airstrikes in Iraq.
Islamic State threat greater than al-Qaeda
As the world pondered the video’s authenticity, French President Francois Hollande proposed hosting an international conference on security in Iraq, where the jihadist group has made sweeping advances since June.
He said the threat posed by the Islamic State was greater than that presented by al-Qaeda in 2001.
“We can no longer stick to the traditional debate on intervention or no intervention,” Hollande told the Le Monde newspaper in an interview.
Those who would attend the conference would include UN Security Council members and Middle Eastern countries, he said, without giving details or a time frame.
France was the first Western European country to announce that it would join the US in arming forces in Iraq’s autonomous region of Kurdistan to help them fight the militants.
Germany and Italy both announced on Wednesday that they were prepared to help arm forces fighting the Islamic State. South Korea said it would provide $1m for Iraqi refugees.
In Iraq, government jets on Wednesday bombarded a militant-run recruitment centre near the rebel-held city of Mosul, the independent Iraqi news site Almada Press reported, citing an unnamed official.
“The warplanes continue to carry out airstrikes over Mosul, targeting the organisation’s [Islamic State] positions,” the official said. No casualties were reported.
The al-Qaeda breakaway group seized Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, in June following a blitz in the country’s northern Sunni heartland.
Earlier this week, the Kurdish troops, aided by US airstrikes, recaptured the strategic Mosul Dam from the Islamic State, dealing a major blow to the radical group.
On Wednesday, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi arrived in Baghdad, the latest trip by a senior Western official to Iraq.
Renzi’s office said he would also visit Kurdistan during the one-day trip.
The Islamic State’s campaign in northern Iraq has sent many thousands of the minority Christians and Yezidis fleeing, triggering a dire humanitarian crisis.
Meanwhile, the UN called on Iraqi authorities to protect members of the Sunni minority in the southern province of Basra, saying they have been subject to apparently sectarian killings and threats.
“Since 23 June 2014, at least 19 Sunni civilian men have been killed and a further 19 injured in a spate of targeted killings and abductions,” the UN’s head of human rights in Iraq, Francesco Motta, said.
The Islamic State – a Sunni extremist group – already controls areas in neighbouring Syria, sparking international fears of the emergence of a regional militant state.