Piecing Together a Timeline of James Foley's Captivity

Though complete details about Foley's suspected whereabouts have not been disclosed by authorities, anonymous sources and former hostages have helped fill the gaps in his story.

This article is from the archive of our partner .

On August 19, 2014, a video appeared online showing the execution of American journalist James Foley at the hands of terrorists. Missing since 2012, little was publicly known about Foley's capture, even as his family, employers, and the government searched for him.

In 2013, GlobalPost, who employed Foley, believed he was in the hands of the Syrian government, however, they soon learned at that time he was not. Rather than disclose information about his captors, GlobalPost and the Foley family kept the information private for his safety and the progress of the investigation.

Although complete details about Foley's suspected whereabouts have not been revealed by authorities, and may never be fully known, anonymous sources and former hostages who were with Foley in captivity have given further information in interviews. The information provided through these various sources has allowed The Wire to piece together a potential, although not fully verified, timeline of events:

  • October 16, 2012: James Foley's last story for GlobalPost is printed.  
  • November 22, 2012: Goes missing in northwest Syria while heading towards Turkey, after his car is stopped by four armed men outside of Taftanaz. 
  • January 1, 2013: Kidnapping is made public.
  • November 23, 2012 - March 2013: Foley's whereabouts are unknown 
  • March 2013 - August 2013: Held in Aleppo, Syria, prison by al-Nusra Front (terrorist group with ties to Iraqi al-Qaeda factions.) About 100 hostages, including reporters, were held there. Foley is tortured in prison. 
  • September 2013 - ?Transferred to ISIL training camp. It is unclear whether Foley was moved from this camp, or if this camp was located in Northern Syria. He is transferred along with another reporter who is not Sotloff. 
  • November 2013A fellow hostage leaves camp with contact information for Foley's family. Though the contact information was lost, this hostage was able to provide Foley's location to United States authorities.
  • November 2013 - April 2014Held in Northern Syria, exact location unknown. Meets fellow reporter and hostage Nicolas Henin, who has spoken about his experience in captivity with Foley. Foley captors suspect he is planning an escape and he receives "brutal punishment." 
  • April 2014 - August 2014: Held by ISIL terrorist organization, exact location unknown (likely northern Syria.)
  • Summer 2014: Rescue mission attempted by United States special operations commandos. Mission fails as hostages were not in the predetermined location when the troops arrived. Exact date was not disclosed by the government.
  • August 13, 2014: GlobalPost and Foley's family receive a message that Foley will be executed. No demands are made by ISIL in the email communication. 
  • August 13, 2014 - August 19, 2014: Foley is executed by beheading. Exact date unknown. 
  • August 19, 2014AlFurqan Media, controlled by ISIL, releases execution video. Video is swiftly removed from social media and YouTube. Stills from the video are banned on Twitter.
  • August 20, 2014White House officially authenticates video, Scotland Yard launched investigation into executioner, based on evidence that he is British. Intelligence sources reveal that executioner leads a group of British ISIL fighters in Syria, goes by the name "John," and has held hostage negotiations with families online. Pentagon reveals information about the failed rescue attempt for the first time.

The Wire will work to create a more detailed and expansive timeline, as more information becomes available.

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