London - The Islamic State claimed the beheading of a
British aid worker on Saturday, an act slammed as "pure evil" by
Prime Minister David Cameron, who vowed Britain would do all it could to catch
President Barack Obama offered US support for its "ally
in grief", while Cameron faced growing calls to allow Britain's military
to help in Washington's planned assault against the rampaging jihadist group.
The British premier will chair a meeting of the government's
emergency Cobra committee early on Sunday in response to the online video
purportedly showing a masked IS militant killing hostage David Haines in
retribution for the US and British campaign against the group.
Cameron called the attack "a despicable and appalling
murder of an innocent aid worker" and "an act of pure evil".
"We will do everything in our power to hunt down these
murderers and ensure they face justice, however long it takes," he said in
Two US journalists have been murdered in similar
circumstances in recent weeks.
Obama slammed the latest attack as "barbaric" and
said the US "stands shoulder to shoulder tonight with our close friend and
ally in grief and resolve".
Britain has yet to join US air strikes against IS in Iraq,
but has offered to arm Kurdish Peshmerga fighters battling against militants in
the north of the country, a move cited in the latest video as a reason for
Murdered 'in cold blood'
Britain's Foreign Office said it was "working as quickly
as it could" to verify the two-minute-27-second clip, entitled "A
Message to the Allies of America".
The video opens with a clip of Cameron describing the
British strategy of working with the Iraqi government to help arm Kurdish
fighters against "these brutal extremist militants", and to offer
aid, diplomacy, and military help to pressure IS.
Haines then appears, dressed in an orange jumpsuit, and
identifies himself before calmly explaining that he is paying the price for
The attacker - who appears to be the same man as in the
previous two beheading videos - tells Britain the alliance with the US will
"accelerate your destruction" and will drag the British people into
"another bloody and unwinnable war".
At the end of the clip, he also threatens to execute another
captive, identified in a caption by name as another British citizen.
Haines's brother Mike paid tribute to a "good
brother...who was recently murdered in cold blood".
"He was, in the right mood, the life and soul of the
party and on other times the most stubborn irritating pain in the ass," he
said in a statement.
"He was and is loved by all his family and will be
Scottish-born Haines, 44, was taken hostage in Syria in
March 2013 and was threatened in a video released this month depicting the
beheading by an IS militant of the US journalist Steven Sotloff.
IS released a video claiming the execution of fellow US
journalist James Foley on 19 August.
Pressure on Cameron
Former head of the British Army Richard Dannatt on Sunday
piled pressure on Cameron to let the country's military join a planned assault
against IS, announced by Obama this week.
"What we absolutely need to do is not be cowed in any
way by yet another foul murder of a hostage," he told Sky News.
"We can support them (the US) to confront, attack and
defeat the Islamic State jihadi fighters ... and make sure this cancer is
removed from the region before it spreads more widely."
Under pressure himself to tackle the problem, Obama on
Wednesday set out a strategy which would include air strikes in Syria and
expanded operations in Iraq.
But Cameron will be wary of playing into the hands of the
captors by escalating tensions and is also recovering from last year's
humiliation of failing to achieve parliamentary support for air strikes against
Syria's President Bashar al-Assad.
Kerry drums up local support
As part of efforts to build up local support for action, US
Secretary of State John Kerry on Saturday sought to bolster relations with
Egypt during meetings with its leaders.
Egypt's formidable army is unlikely to take part in a
military coalition against IS, but the country boasts the prestigious Sunni
Muslim authority Al-Azhar, which Kerry said would fight back against the
Islamic State's use of the religion.
Kerry takes his push to forge a broad coalition against
Islamic State jihadists to France on Sunday , on the eve of an international
conference in Paris on peace and security in Iraq.
The CIA put the number of IS fighters at 20 000 to 31 500 in
Iraq and Syria, up to three times the previous estimate.
US aircraft have carried out more than 160 strikes in Iraq
since early August, the US Central Command said on Saturday.