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Daily Israel Report

'They Knew the Dangers, But Believed the Story Had to Be Told'

Close friend of two murdered journalists Sotloff and Foley says US should pay ransoms to free hostages.
By Yoni Kempinski, Ari Yashar
First Publish: 9/3/2014, 3:55 PM

Filmmaker Matthew VanDyke, a close friend of the two US journalists Steven Sotloff and James Foley who were recently brutally beheaded by Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) terrorists in Syria, has said both were committed to their work despite the dangers.

"Both of them were fully aware of the dangers but they believed that the story needed to be told and they weren't going to let the risks stop them. ...They took precautions and unfortunately even if you do everything right, sometimes in Syria things go wrong. But they both had a passion for what they did," VanDyke told Reuters.

VanDyke noted that he spoke about the security risks with both; after Foley's brutal murder he recalls talking about the danger with Sotloff a few weeks before he went to Syria.

Steven, who was an Israeli as well as an American citizen, "still went. He still believed in what he was doing and that the story had to be told," remarked VanDyke.

Dealing with the phenomenon of IS capturing US citizens has proven a difficult challenge. Shortly after Foley's murder, it was revealed that America had made a failed rescue attempt to free the journalist as well as several others.

On the other hand, the release of another US journalist Peter Theo Curtis from Syria was secured through negotiations mediated by Qatar. It remains unclear if the group behind that incident was also IS, as well as what the group received to agree to the release.

VanDyke opined that "the United States should negotiate in the case of ISIS because Europe chooses to pay ransoms which undermines the position of the US and UK anyway."

The filmmaker added that IS has numerous sources of revenue between captured oil field sales and looting, meaning that paying the ransoms would not prop up the terrorist group.

"I would propose that they pay the ransoms, get our people back and then kill ISIS before they get to use the money anyway," argued VanDyke.

Commenting on the Islamic State's foreign members, which the group is recruiting through flashy propaganda films, VanDyke said "a number of members of ISIS, perhaps thousands, have European passports or American passports that allow them to cross the borders, so it's definitely a major security threat at this point that exceeds even that that Al Qaeda posed."

"The killings of these two journalists who were simply doing their jobs, should be a wake up call to the United States and to Europe to deal with this threat and to deal with it with virtually no limitation, short of boots on the ground," argued the filmmaker.

The call for firm action comes after US President Barack Obama said last Thursday his administration has "no strategy" vis-a-vis the IS threat in Syria. White House press secretary Josh Earnest rushed to justify the statement as meaning no strategy "yet," an addition that may not reassure many.