BAGHDAD (REUTERS/AFP) - Islamic State insurgents released a video on Tuesday purportedly showing the beheading of US journalist James Foley, who went missing in Syria nearly two years ago.
The graphic video, entitled "A Message To America," was posted on social media sites. It was not immediately possible to verify its authenticity, although the White House said US intelligence agencies were working to verify it.
Foley, who has reported in the Middle East for five years, was kidnapped on Nov 22, 2012, by unidentified gunmen. He was an experienced correspondent who had covered the war in Libya before heading to Syria to follow the revolt against Bashar al-Assad's regime for the Global Post, AFP and other outlets.
A Twitter account set up by his family to help find him said early on Wednesday: "We know that many of you are looking for confirmation or answers. Please be patient until we all have more information, and keep the Foleys in your thoughts and prayers."
The militants also claim in the video to be holding US journalist Steven Sotloff and say his life depends on US President Barack Obama's next move.
"The life of this American citizen, Obama, depends on your next decision," says a masked man in the video, speaking English with a British accent as he holds a prisoner that the video names as Steven Sotloff.
The White House on Tuesday expressed outrage if the video turns out to be genuine.
"We have seen a video that purports to be the murder of US citizen James Foley by ISIL. The intelligence community is working as quickly as possible to determine its authenticity," White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said.
"If genuine, we are appalled by the brutal murder of an innocent American journalist and we express our deepest condolences to his family and friends."
The video opens with a clip of US President Barack Obama saying he authorised strikes in Iraq.
"Obama authorises military operations against the Islamic State effectively placing America upon a slippery slope towards a new war front against Muslims," words appear in English and Arabic on the screen. It shows black and white aerial footage of air strikes with text saying, "American aggression against the Islamic State".
A person identified as James Foley and wearing an orange outfit is seen kneeling in the desert as a man in black dress with a black mask stands beside him, holding a knife.
"I call on my friends family and loved ones to rise up against my real killers, the US government, for what will happen to me is only a result of their complacency and criminality," the kneeling man says.
The man in the mask speaks in a British accent and says: "This is James Wright Foley, an American citizen, of your country. As a government, you have been at the forefront of the aggression towards the Islamic State.
"Today your military air force is attacking us daily in Iraq. Your strikes have caused casualties amongst Muslims. You are no longer fighting an insurgency. We are an Islamic army, and a state that has been accepted by a large number of Muslims worldwide."
Following his statement he beheads the kneeling man.
At the end of the video, words on the side of the screen say "Steven Joel Sotloff" as another prisoner in an orange jumpsuit is shown on screen. "The life of this American citizen, Obama, depends on your next decision," the masked man says.
Islamic State's sweep through northern Iraq, bringing it close to Baghdad and in control of the second city, Mosul, drew US air strikes on the country for the first time since the end of the American occupation in 2011.
The Sunni militant group has declared a caliphate in parts of Iraq and Syria in areas it controls.