James Foley in Syria, 2012
James Foley in Syria, 2012

UK 'close' to naming Brit jihadist who beheaded journalist

THE UK is "close" to identifying the Isis militant who beheaded US journalist James Foley, according the British ambassador to the United States.

Peter Westmacott told CNN Sunday that "we're not far away" from naming the man in the Islamic State group video.

Mr Westmacott said the Isis militant, who spoke with a London accent, is being identified using voice-recognition technology and wider intelligence.

"We're putting a lot into it," Westmacott said, though he could not elaborate further on the killer's identity.

Westmacott said the problem "goes beyond one horrendous criminal."

"People think maybe as many as 500 British subjects have gone to Syria and Iraq for this cause of jihad," he said.

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British authorities are trying to identify the man, who has been dubbed "Jihadi John" by British media.

The masked figure beheaded Foley in a video released on Tuesday that also saw a second captive American journalist, Steven Sotloff threatened.

Mr Foley was abducted in Syria in November 2012; Sotloff was kidnapped there in 2013.

Yesterday the Independent reported that the London rapper Abdel-Majed Abdel Bary, also known as 'L Jinny', is one of several British jihadists under investigation for Foley's murder.

Afzal Amin, former chairman of the Armed Forces Muslim Association and Conservative MP candidate for Dudley North, told The Independent on Sunday that British society, particularly its political class and community leaders, share the blame for the "jihad generation" of young men and women joining the Islamic State.

Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond called the execution of Foley an "utter betrayal of Britain".