WASHINGTON – The FBI director says the U.S. believes it has identified the British-accented masked man in the videos depicting the beheadings of two American journalists and a British aid worker.

FBI Director James Comey told reporters at the bureau’s headquarters Thursday he would not reveal the man’s name or nationality.

Comey did not address whether the U.S. believes the man actually carried out the killings himself.

The full beheadings are not shown in the videos, but the British-accented, English-speaking militant holds a long knife and appears to begin cutting the three men, American reporters James Foley and Steven Sotloff and British aid worker David Haines.

In late August, British Ambassador Peter Westmacott said his country was close to identifying the Islamic State group militant.

Comey, the FBI director, said about a dozen Americans are believed to be fighting with extremist groups in Syria at the moment.


He said more than 100 Americans have either tried to go to Syria and been arrested, gone successfully, or gone and come back. But he isn’t breaking down the numbers any further.

The figure of 100 has often been misinterpreted to represent the number of U.S. citizens fighting in Syria.

Comey said all the Americans who have returned after fighting with extremist groups are either under investigation, under surveillance or have been arrested.

The director says he’s not confident the U.S. has identified every American who had joined up with militants in Syria.

Plots against the U.S. and Europe by the al-Qaida cell in Syria known as the Khorasan Group may still be in the works, he said.

Comey said he has no indication yet that a series of airstrikes against the militants this week disrupted its plans.

U.S. intelligence officials say the group has been trying to perfect a non-metallic bomb that can get past airport security and be used to blow up an airplane in flight.

Comey said the group is comprised of al-Qaida veterans from Afghanistan and Pakistan along with some newcomers, and it remains at the top of the FBI’s list of terrorism concerns.

Comey added that he also worries about a homegrown attack inspired by the Islamic State group.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.