-- When James Foley’s mysterious captors finally contacted his family and revealed their demands in exchange for the American journalist’s release, they were so absurd that the group didn’t appear to be serious about actually freeing Foley, according to GlobalPost CEO Phil Balboni and a former U.S. government official.
Foley had been kidnapped while working for GlobalPost in Syria in November 2012, but word from his abductors didn’t come until a year later when his family and news organization received an email “in very serviceable English” demanding 100 million Euros ($132 million), said Balboni.
A former U.S. government official with direct knowledge of the American hostages’ cases confirmed the amount – which is tens of millions more than all of al Qaeda reportedly received from all kidnappings last year -- and said the Islamic extremists also demanded the release of high-profile Muslim prisoners in the U.S.
In the past, ISIS -- taking a cue from al Qaeda franchise AQIM in North Africa -- has demanded far less money for European hostages who were eventually released, with the dollar amounts between $2 million and $3 million, current and former officials have told ABC News.
Nicholas Henin, a French journalist who was held alongside Foley for seven months and suffered several mock executions before he was freed in April, said Foley was optimistic about his chances of being freed, even though the United States by policy does not negotiate with terrorists.
“There are two kinds of countries in the world,” Henin said, those like the U.S. and U.K. which do not negotiate with extremists, and those that do. According to a New York Times report in late July, several European governments have been effectively bankrolling a number of terrorist groups by paying high-dollar ransoms for their captured citizens, to the long-simmering frustration of their American and British allies.
“Aside from state-sponsored terrorism, ransom payments are the greatest source of terrorist funding today,” U.S. Treasury Under Secretary David Cohen said in June, noting that al Qaeda-linked terror groups have collected “tens of millions of dollars in ransoms in the last several years.”
“If you’re dealing with a group that’s willing to act in the barbaric way that ISIS has not only in the case of James Foley, but in the case of what they’ve done to Christians, what they’ve done to women, and to other Muslims in Iraq and in Syria, the brutality of it… how can you have a negotiation with a terrorist group like that?” Ayotte said. “How could you ever trust that that negotiation would lead [to] a result and wouldn’t lead to more violence?”
Americans and Brits have been freed through ransom payments in the past, however that is usually done through the intervention of a private or third party. Speaking to the public earlier this week, Foley’s parents, John and Diane, said they were considering fundraising to pay ransom right up until their son was killed.
“We were making a video… it’s a video of all Jimmy’s experiences and all of the many people whose lives he touched,” John Foley said. “And that’s going to continue, despite his death.”
ABC News' Lee Ferran contributed to this report.