US Journalist James Foley Was Killed One Year Back, Syrian Official Claims

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Syria's President Bashar al-Assad delivers a speech at al-Shaab presidential palace in Damascus
Syria's President Bashar al-Assad delivers a speech after being sworn in for a new seven-year term, at al-Shaab presidential palace in Damascus July 16, 2014,

It was claimed that U.S. journalist James Foley, who was seen getting assassinated on camera a few days back, had already been killed one year ago. The claim comes from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's office. It was also claimed that the United Nations was aware that the murder had taken place nearly a year back.

Assad's official spokesperson and political advisor, Bouthaina Shaaban, said that Foley had been "sold" to the Islamic State which, according to her, was an extension of the Free Syrian Army. She said that the UN was aware of the incident. "James Foley was killed a year ago, not now, they [Islamic State] only released the pictures now, but he was killed a year ago. We have definite information, the UN has the information," Shaaban said.

Shaaban's claim has, however, been dismissed by Phil Balboni, who was Foley's boss at the Global Post. He said that there was enough evidence to prove that the American journalist had been captured by the Islamic State only in recent months. "This is totally false and contradicted by a very significant body of incontrovertible evidence," he said. "We have multiple eyewitness accounts from hostages held with Jim as recently as last month. It's a disgrace that this was ever broadcast or published."

Shaaban, on the other hand, sounded confident about her claim when she spoke to BBC Radio 4. The Western intelligence, however, is unlikely to take her claims seriously. In addition to Assad's struggled relation with the U.S. government, there are witnesses who testify otherwise. Former Islamic State hostage Didier François claimed to have spent several months with Foley. The 53-year-old journalist was released by the Islamic State militants after the James Foley beheading video had appeared online.

Another hostage, Daniel Rye Ottosen, a 25-year-old Danish photojournalist, claimed that he had spent 13 months with Foley. Ottosen was released in June 2014. French hostage Nicolas Henin also claimed that he had spent seven months with the American photojournalist whose family received emails from him until December 2013.

Shaaban's claim coincides with speculation doing rounds on the net that Foley's execution video, which created quite a sensation worldwide, could be staged.

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