British ambassador: Authorities ‘close’ to identifying militant who killed James Foley

The British ambassador to the United States said Sunday that authorities are "close" to identifying the Islamist militant who beheaded American journalist James Foley.

Speaking on CNN's "State of the Union" and NBC's "Meet the Press," Ambassador Peter Westmacott said advanced voice-recognition technology is helping authorities identify the man, who spoke with a British accent.

"We're not in a position to say exactly who this is," Westmacott said on "Meet the Press." "I think we are close."

The ambassador said it is estimated that about 500 British citizens have joined the Islamic State, the militant group behind Foley's execution.

"It's not just about one brutal murderer," he said. "It is a threat to our citizens."

Westmacott said British authorities have "picked up" about 60 or 70 British citizens returning from the region with an intent to do harm.

On "State of the Union," Westmacott said Britain is "very active and very present" in the region, providing arms to the Kurdish government in northern Iraq and offering humanitarian relief. He said that Britain is playing an active role in Iraq alongside the United States but that it will not send combat troops.

"We're not getting involved in another Iraq war," he said.


Members of the Kurdish security forces patrol in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, defending against the marauding Islamic State militants. (Ako Rasheed/Reuters)

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said the Islamic State is a "real threat" to the United States.

"They are one plane ticket away from U.S. shores, and that is why we are so concerned about it," he said on "Meet the Press."

Speaking on ABC's "This Week," Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Tex.), chair of the House Committee on Homeland Security, said the Islamic State wants to attack the West.

"Their focus right now is establishing the caliphate, but don’t kid yourself for a second — they are intent on hitting the West,” McCaul said on ABC's "This Week."

The Republican believes that ongoing airstrikes against the group in northern Iraq must be expanded and that the strategy against the Islamic State must become a regional one.

"I don’t think you’re gonna win this with a containment policy alone. This administration so far has only dealt with containment," he said. "We need to expand these airstrikes" to defeat the Islamic State.

McCaul said that "America shouldn't bear this burden alone" and that other nations inside and outside the region must help if they want to see the Islamic State destroyed.

"I do believe they pose the greatest threat that we've seen since 9/11," McCaul said, adding that Foley's execution was a "turning point" for many.

"It has sort of opened their eyes to what ISIS really is, the true character of ISIS, how savage they really are and — and their intent to harm Americans," he said.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post incorrectly attributed statements made by Rep. Michael McCaul to Rep. Mike Rogers. This version has been corrected.

Katie Zezima covers the White House for Post Politics and The Fix.
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