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Obama vows US 'will not be intimidated' by Islamic State jihadists

Terrorism experts say the group is not as strong as pre-911 Al-Qaeda.

Obama speaking in Estonia on a visit to Baltic leaders.
Obama speaking in Estonia on a visit to Baltic leaders.
Image: AP/Press Association Images

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA has vowed that the United States would not be intimidated by the beheading of a second American reporter but acknowledged the fight against the jihadists would take time.

Obama pledged that justice would be done to the Islamic State (IS) killers of 31-year-old reporter Steven Sotloff, wherever they hid and however long it took.

But he warned that eliminating the threat posed to the region by the group from its bases in Iraq and Syria would take time.

IS posted video footage on the Internet of Sotloff’s beheading, confirmed as authentic by Washington, which sparked outrage around the world.

It said the journalist’s killing, which comes on the heels of the beheading last month of another US reporter, James Foley, was in retaliation for expanded US air strikes against its fighters in Iraq over the past week.

It warned a British hostage would be next unless London backs off from its support for Washington’s air campaign.

Obama made the comments ahead of landing in the UK this evening on the eve of a two-day NATO summit of Western leaders, an AFP photographer saw.

Obama is one of 67 leaders taking part the talks, which are expected to focus on the conflict in Ukraine and the threat of Islamic extremists in Iraq and Syria.

Prime Minister David Cameron said that Britain too refused to be cowed by IS, while Foreign Minister Philip Hammond said that British air strikes were not being ruled out.

Obama said the whole world had been repulsed by the barbarism of Sotloff’s murder but “we will not be intimidated”.

“Those who make the mistake of harming Americans will learn that we will not forget and that our reach is long and that justice will be served,” he said.

Obama said Washington was determined to halt the IS threat but warned it would depend on close cooperation with partners in the region.

Obama Estonia Obama arrives departing for Wales ahead of tomorrow's NATO summit. Source: AP/Press Association Images

He has previously admitted that his administration has yet to develop a comprehensive strategy for tackling IS on both sides of the Iraq-Syria border.

Cameron said the beheading video depicted an “absolutely disgusting, despicable act” and chaired a meeting of security chiefs to discuss how to tackle the IS threat.

The masked executioner in the video spoke with a London accent and claimed to be the same man, confirmed by UK security services as a Briton, who beheaded Foley.

“Not invincible” 

A senior US intelligence official has said meanwhile that IS are a threat to the West but are “not invincible”.

Matthew Olsen, director of the National Counter-Terrorism Center, said there is no “credible” evidence that the IS militants fighting in Iraq and Syria are plotting an imminent attack on American soil.

But he acknowledged that the group could eventually try to strike at the United States.

US air strikes in Iraq over the past month have shown the militants are vulnerable on the battlefield, Olsen said, at an event organized by the Brookings Institution think tank in Washington.

“Because of the successes of these strikes, ISIL is losing arms, it’s losing equipment and it’s losing territory,” he said, using the acronym for the group’s former name, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

Mideast Iraq Blocking Jihadis Shiite militiamen hold the flag of the Islamic State group. Source: AP/Press Association Images

Iraqi government, Kurdish and US forces taking joint action in recent weeks have, he said, “revealed that ISIL is vulnerable to coordinated and effective military action.

“The strikes have begun to sap ISIL’s momentum and created the space for Iraqi and Kurdish forces to take the offensive.”

He said the outrage caused by the group’s brutal tactics and its setbacks on the battlefield showed IS extremists are “not invincible.”

As head of the NCTC, Olsen oversees US intelligence assessments of terror suspects and potential threats to the United States.

Olsen said the Islamic State is merely one of a myriad of extremist organizations around the world, and cautioned against overstating the threat the group represented.

He said it was important to keep the IS threat “in perspective,” saying the militants were dangerous but not equivalent to the threat presented by Al-Qaeda before the attacks of 11 September 2001.

“ISIL is not Al-Qaeda pre-9/11,” he said. “At this point, we have no credible information that ISIL is planning to attack the United States.”

If “left unchecked,” the group would eventually turn their sights to the US and the West, he added.

© – AFP 2014

Read: ‘A despicable crime’: UN chief slams murder of US journalist Steven Sotloff >

Read: US journalist Steven Sotloff ‘beheaded by Islamic State’ in newly released video >

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