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Al Jazeera retracts controversial story doubting Foley, Sotloff beheadings

Pan-Arab news channel Al Jazeera has removed a story published online last week which had ridiculed the execution of U.S. Journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff as a “Hollywood” fabrication.

The move to scrap the piece followed a report by Al Arabiya News on Friday which outlined the controversial claims made in the Al Jazeera story, deemed by many online commentators as offensive and insensitive.

When accessing the link to the story on Saturday, an error page now appears instead. Al Arabiya News has a copy of the original piece published under Al Jazeera’s “reports and interviews” section on Sept. 4.

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The story had suggested that Foley likely fabricated the execution video, despite confirmations from the U.S. government that the video released by ISIS militants was real, and that his masked executioner did “not have the features of common jihadist figures, but he was rather similar to a Hollywood actor.”

The Al Jazeera report had also claimed that a review of the video in slow motion showed that “the knife being moved on the neck of the victim six times triggered no blood.”

“The filmmaker wanted to convince us that slaughtering was done after they cut the shot to show his head detached from the body in and unjustified montage leap,” the report added.

On Saturday, Al Jazeera issued a statement “clarifying” the scrapped report in both Arabic and English.

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In a statement on the Al Jazeera English website, the news channel said: “In respect to families of the victims and as we share their grief, Al Jazeera Arabic’s website decided to retract an inaccurate article that questioned the legitimacy of Foley and Sotloff’s beheading videos after a theory surfaced on a number of American social media sites claiming they were produced as a pretext ahead of a U.S. invasion of Syria.”

The statement also said Al Jazeera wanted to take the opportunity to “reiterate Al Jazeera previous position in condemning the kidnapping of the two journalists and condemning their killing as a heinous crime.”

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Royce Christyn
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