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The British government has started the hunt for the executioner of American reporter James Foley. Foley was killed by beheading and the video of the tragic act was publicly issued by ISIL-run media outlet AlFurqan. Today, the White House authenticated the video and confirmed Foley's murder. 

Prime Minister David Cameron cut his vacation short after just a day of rest to address the situation in Iraq following the discovery of the video, and the belief that the man responsible could be a British citizen. Cameron is working with foreign secretary Philip Hammond to investigate. The executioner in the video was identified as British by his distinct South East/Greater London accent. 

The tall British executioner was clad in all black and is wearing a facemask, however, sources within Britain are already starting to identify him. He is the allegedly the leader of a group of British ISIL fighters in Syria. He is known, thus far, only as "John." A former hostage of these fighters identified him to The Guardian as the head guard in Raqqa. One of his former hostages described him as "intelligent, educated and a devout believer in radical Islamic teachings." He was born in the United Kingdom. 

"John" has a history of working with the hostages, as he was the lead negotiator in release of eleven ISIL hostages to Turkey in exchange for ransom. An unidentified source told The Guardian that John holds negotiation discussions for hostages with their families online

All British intelligence agencies are working to identify him further and if found, Hammond has said he will be charged as a murderer. The executioner shown in the video also threatened the life of a second hostage journalist, Steven Soltoff. Soltoff has been missing since last August and appeared in the video briefly, as the executioner said, "The life of this American citizen, Obama, depends on your next decision."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

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