Video Purports to Show Beheading of U.S. Journalist Steven Sotloff
Published September 02, 2014
An Internet video purports to show the beheading of US reporter Steven Sotloff by the Islamic State extremist group.
The global terror intelligence firm SITE first reported the release of the 2-minute video, titled "A Second Message to America," in which Sotloff, a 31-year-old freelance journalist, speaks to the camera before a cloaked Islamic State fighter begins to decapitate him.
“I’m sure you know exactly who I am by now and why I am appearing,” Sotloff said under apparent duress. "Obama, your foreign policy of intervention in Iraq was supposed to be for preservation of American lives and interests, so why is it that I am paying the price of your interference with my life?”
The video then cuts to the masked militant warning that as long as U.S. missiles “continue to strike our people, our knife will continue to strike the necks of your people.” He also threatens the life of British captive David Cawthorne Haines.
"I'm back, Obama," said the left-handed executioner with a British accent who appears to be the same man who killed Foley. "And I'm back because of your arrogant foreign policy towards the Islamic State."
The gruesome video then shows Sotloff's severed head lying next to his body.
Government officials could not immediately verify the authenticity of the video. But Barak Barfi, a spokesman for the Sotloff family, indicated the family fears the worst.
"The family knows of this horrific tragedy and is grieving privately," Barfi told The Associated Press. "There will be no public comment from the family during this difficult time."
The grim video comes just days after Sotloff's mother, Shirley, directly addressed the leader of the Islamic State last week, saying her son shouldn't pay for U.S. government actions in the Middle East and that he cared about the weak and oppressed as a journalist.
"I want what every mother wants, to live to see her children's children," she said last week. "I plead with you to grant me this."
Shirley Sotloff cited by name the leader of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who has described himself as a caliph intending to lead the Muslim world. She had asked him to show mercy and follow the example of the prophet Muhammad in protecting people of Muslim, Jewish and Christian faiths.
Sotloff was last seen in August 2013 in Syria. He was recently threatened with death by the militants on a video unless the U.S. stopped airstrikes on the group in Iraq. The same video showed the beheading of fellow American journalist James Foley, 45.
Several U.S. officials, including U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., have said they were working behind the scenes to find out more about Sotloff and try to secure his release.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest could not confirm the reports when asked about the video at Tuesday’s press briefing. He noted the administration has been monitoring his situation carefully since threats were first made.
“The United States, as you know, has dedicated significant time and resources to try and rescue Mr. Sotloff,” he said, adding “thoughts and prayers” are with the family.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the intelligence community will work “as quickly as possible” to determine the video’s authenticity.
"If the video is genuine, we are sickened by this brutal act taking the life of another innocent American citizen,” she told reporters.
Pressed by Fox News, Psaki would not say whether this would constitute an act of war. She said the prior execution of journalist James Foley was a “horrific terrorist act,” and was a “motivating” factor for creating a coalition to address the Islamic State.
A spokeswoman for the National Security Council confirmed that the agency had seen the purported video.
"The intelligence community is working as quickly as possible to determine its authenticity," spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said in a statement. "If genuine, we are appalled by the brutal murder of an innocent American journalist and we express our deepest condolences to his family and friends. We will provide more information when it is available.”
At University of Central Florida, where Sotloff studied journalism from 2002 to 2004, President John Hitt said the school is mourning the loss.
“Our UCF family mourns Steven’s death, and we join millions of people around the world who are outraged at this despicable and unjustifiable act,” said Hitt.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.