British PM: Time For Countries to Keep Their Pledges Not to Pay Ransom to Terrorists

By Patrick Goodenough | September 4, 2014 | 2:13 AM EDT

A candle light vigil is held at the University of Central Florida in Orlando on Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2014, to honor Steven Sotloff, the second American journalist to be beheaded by ISIS in two weeks. Sotloff attended the university a decade ago. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

( – On the eve of a NATO summit where the ISIS terrorist threat will share center stage with the Ukraine crisis, British Prime Minister David Cameron expressed frustration that some governments continue to pay ransom to terrorists holding their citizens, despite commitments not to do so.

Cameron and President Obama are expected to use the summit in Wales on Thursday and Friday to secure support for a coalition to confront the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS/ISIL). In recent weeks the group’s jihadists have beheaded two American journalists, James Foley and Steven Sotloff, and now threaten the same fate for a British hostage, an aid worker named as David Haines.

“There is no doubt in my mind that the many tens of millions of dollars that ISIL has raised from ransom payments is going into promoting terrorism, including terrorism affecting our own country,” Cameron told the House of Commons.

He recalled that when he hosted a G8 summit in Northern Ireland last year, the leaders of the world’s eight leading economies had pledged to reject the payment of ransom to terrorists.

“Britain continues with this policy; America continues with this policy,” Cameron said. “But we need to redouble the efforts to make sure that other countries are good to their word.”

G8 members include France, Germany and Italy, three countries believed to have paid ransoms, directly or indirectly, to terrorist groups to secure the release of their nationals kidnapped in Syria, Yemen and elsewhere in recent years.

In a recent propaganda publication, ISIS accused Obama of responsibility for the death of Foley, the photojournalist whose beheading was shown in a video clip posted a fortnight ago.

While the U.S. government had failed for nine months to take the necessary steps to save Foley, the terrorist group said, “negotiations were made by the governments of a number of European prisoners, which resulted in the release of a dozen of their prisoners, after the demands of the Islamic State were met.”

“That left a number of British and American prisoners remaining in the cells of the Islamic State, only after their governments arrogantly refused to release our imprisoned brothers and our sister, Dr. Aafia Siddiqui.”

ISIS parades Syrian captives in Deir el-Zour, eastern Syria earlier this year. (Screenshot: ISIS propaganda video)

Apart from demands to release imprisoned terrorists, ISIS also wanted a 100 million euro ($132 million) ransom for Foley’s release, according to the journalist’s employer, GlobalPost.

When Cameron hosted the G8 summit in June 2013, the leaders signed up to a statement voicing concern about the payment of ransom to terrorists, saying the money strengthens their capacity to carry out attacks “and incentivizes future incidents of kidnapping for ransom, thereby increasing the risks to our nationals.”

“We unequivocally reject the payment of ransoms to terrorists …” it said.

Six months later, Britain shepherded through the U.N. Security Council a resolution on the subject – the first ever such measure dedicated solely to tackling terrorist hostage-taking for ransom.

It called on all member states to prevent terrorists from benefiting directly or indirectly from ransom payments and expressed the council’s determination to secure the safe release of hostages without paying ransom or agreeing to political concessions.

The British government noted at the time that an estimated $105 million in ransom had been paid to Islamist terror groups over the previous three-and-a-half years.

In a joint op-ed published in The Times of London on the eve of the NATO summit, Cameron and Obama sent a defiant message to ISIS.

“If terrorists think we will weaken in the face of their threats they could not be more wrong,” they wrote. “Countries like Britain and America will not be cowed by barbaric killers.”

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow