ISIS Ransoming James Foley's Remains for $1m

James Foley
A sign outside a shop remembers James Foley in his hometown of Rochester, New Hampshire August 20, 2014 Brian Snyder/REUTERS

ISIS is reportedly trying to sell the body of U.S. journalist James Foley, who was executed by the terrorist group in August, back to his family for $1 million.

Three intermediaries, who say they have links with the Islamic fundamentalist group and are in charge of negotiating the deal, have told the online news outlet Buzzfeed that ISIS would provide a DNA sample in advance to prove that the body was Foley's. They also said that the exchange would take place across the Syrian-Turkey border.

However, according to one of the middlemen, a former Syrian rebel fighter who says he was approached by ISIS to mediate the deal, the Islamic State want the money before the body is handed over.

"They ask for $1 million, and they will send DNA to Turkey, but they want the money first," the source told Buzzfeed. "They will not give the DNA without the money."

According to the website, this same source has also served as a middleman in hostage negotiations with the Syrian branch of Al-Qaeda, Jabhat al-Nusra as well as ISIS. As evidence to prove it, he showed the news outlet unpublished videos of Western hostages held by Nusra.

Whilst the former Syrian fighter claims that his intentions in negotiating the deal are simply to give the mourning family closure, a second go-between who says he is a businessman was less compassionate, reportedly saying: "This is business".

According to the two sources, the movement of the body would be coordinated by a leading official in the Free Syrian Army, who reportedly tried to get Buzzfeed to hold back the story for fear it could ruin the deal.

Foley's death was the first in a series of high-profile beheadings of Western hostages by the Islamic fundamentalist group, who have conquered vast areas of Iraq and Syria in the last year, resulting in the deaths of thousands of people.

Since Foley's beheading, ISIS have released videos of the executions of other Westerners, including American-Israeli journalist Steven Sotloff, British aid worker Alan Henning and U.S. aid worker Peter Kassig.

Holding Western captives for ransom is one of the main ways the terrorist group makes money. Foley was one of 23 Western hostages held by ISIS earlier this year, 15 of whom were freed. While the leaders at last year's G8 summit in Northern Ireland pledged to not pay ransom payments to terrorists, David Cameron has expressed frustration that, despite these commitments, some governments have paid money in order to guarantee the release of their citizens.

"There is no doubt in my mind that the many tens of millions of dollars that ISIL has raised from ransom payments is going into promoting terrorism, including terrorism affecting our own country," Cameron told the House of Commons in September.

However, Britain and the U.S. have remained firm in their stance, refusing to negotiate with the terrorists.

It was reported earlier this year that ISIS had approached Foley's family and news agency GlobalPost, for which Foley had freelanced during his time in Syria, asking for $132 million in order for him to be released. However, the U.S. nixed the demand saying that if the family paid it themselves it would be an act of treason.

The Foley family have not yet commented on the story.

Whilst the exact number of Western hostages still imprisoned by ISIS is unclear, at least two Westerners are known to be in the group's captivity: John Cantlie, a British journalist who has already appeared in a number of ISIS videos, and a 26-year-old female American aid worker who has yet to be named.