News / Middle East

Islamic State Video Shows Beheading of US Journalist Sotloff

VOA News

An Internet video uploaded Tuesday by Islamic State purports to show the beheading of U.S. journalist Steven Sotloff.

A masked figure in the video also issue a threat against a British hostage, a man the group named as David Haines, and warned governments to back off "this evil alliance of America against the Islamic State," the SITE monitoring service reported.

The purported killer addresses President Barack Obama, saying Sotloff's death was in retaliation for U.S. airstrikes against the militants.

The militant says, "Just as your missiles continue to strike our people, our knife will continue to strike the necks of your people."

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said officials are checking into the video's authenticity. If it's genuine, Psaki said, "we are sickened."

The images follow last month's video release of the gruesome beheading of U.S. freelance journalist Jim Foley.

Video appears authentic

A source familiar with the matter said that while U.S. officials have yet to formally confirm the validity of the video, it appeared to be authentic.

Iraq's outgoing foreign minister Hoshiyar Zebari, condemned what he called "this savage example of savagery and evil," and he said this was evidence of the need for Iraq and the West to defeat the Islamic State.

"We have a common enemy and the whole world is moving in the right direction to stop this savagery and brutality," said Zebari. "The whole world is standing united against IS. They must be defeated so these horrid scenes will not be repeated."

Iraqi Shi'ite Muslim politician Sami Askari, who is close to outgoing Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, said, "They are trying to scare the Americans not to intervene. I don't think Washington will be scared and stop. This is evil. Every human being has to fight this phenomenon. Like cancer, there is no cure. You have to fight it."

Officials comment

White House spokesman Josh Earnest could not confirm the execution, but told reporters "our thoughts and prayers" are with Sotloff's family.

British Prime Minister David Cameron called Sotloff's murder "disgusting and despicable."

Sotloff was taken captive in Syria in August 2013, roughly a year after Foley was taken hostage. He worked for Time and Foreign Policy magazines.

The video has clear echoes of Foley's murder. As with Foley, Sotloff appears in an orange jumpsuit; his killer is dressed in black, his face hidden.

Like Foley, Sotloff is forced to kneel in what appears to be a strip of desert before being beheaded.

It was unclear when the video was shot.

The Islamic State group has seized a large swath of land across eastern Syria and northwestern Iraq, declaring the area a "caliphate."

The United States has been conducting airstrikes in coordination with Iraq's government against the group since early August.

Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby said Tuesday the U.S. would continue airstrikes to disrupt the Islamic State group's ability to harm U.S. personnel and facilities. The raids also support further humanitarian aid to those persecuted by the extremist group.  

Amnesty International on Tuesday said it had evidence Islamic State militants are conducting a systematic campaign of ethnic cleansing in northern Iraq, carrying out war crimes that include mass summary killings and abductions.

Congressional reaction

U.S. Congressmen Ed Royce and Eliot Engel condemned the killing and called for the formation of an international coalition to defeat the extremist group.

"If we don't disrupt and defeat it," Engel warned, its members "will attack homelands all over the world." The U.S. lawmaker is the ranking Democrat of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Royce, the committee's chairman, issued a statement saying he was "disgusted by what appears to be another horrendous killing of an American journalist at the hands of ISIS." He used that acronym for the group, adding his sympathies to Sotloff's family.

"... Sadly, ISIS is bringing this barbarity across the region — beheading and crucifying those who don’t share their dark ideology," said Royce. "The threat from this group seems to grow by the day. Working with key allies, the United States needs to be acting urgently to arm the Kurds on the ground who are fighting them, and targeting ISIS from the air with drone strikes.”

Royce said his committee will hold a hearing on the threat posed by the Islamic State after Congress returns next week. Engel said that after the 60 days allotted in the War Powers Act is over, President Obama should come to Congress to ask for the authorization of more airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Iraq.

A Sotloff family spokesman said it is aware of the video and is grieving privately.

Mother's appeal

On August 27, Sotloff's mother, Shirley Sotloff, issued a video plea to IS's leader during which she described her son as an "honorable man" who should not be punished for U.S. government actions.

"I've learned that Islam teaches that no individual should be held responsible for the sins of others," she said on the video posted on YouTube. "Steven has no control over the actions of the U.S. government. He is an innocent journalist. I've also learned that you, the Caliph, can grant amnesty. I ask you to please release my child."

Material for this report came from Reuters. Cindy Saine contributed reporting from Washington.

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Comment Sorting
by: Tom Murphy from: Heartlamd America
September 05, 2014 12:01 AM
To the cowardly ISIS murderer:
1. I have knife bigger than yours. Lets call it a machete.
2. My hands are not tied behind my back.
3. I'm not on my knees.
4. If I meet you on an open field, you will die before you get close enough to use any knife or AK-47. I'm an excellent shooter.
5. I can blend into the background, so I'll see you before you see me.
6. When can we meet for an exchange of techniques?

by: Owtrayjd from: Massachusetts
September 03, 2014 5:36 AM
Sorry (not sorry), but "Good Governing" isn't going to quell the uprising of ISIS, they are far too funded and if they're not quashed through good military intel and swift, precise air strikes, they have the potential to establish their influence throughout a broad area of the world. I Implore the global community to take immediate action in removing this scourge that threatens civilization, wherever they abide.

by: Mr a from: new york
September 02, 2014 8:49 PM
Us has to response aggressively. US can use weapons of mass destruction to teach them lesson.

by: tom from: austin tx
September 02, 2014 6:43 PM
Mr. President, how many more Americans will ISIS have to head-chop before you raise a hand to do anything in response? "FORE" - Thank you Mr. PResident.
In Response

by: travis from: usa
September 03, 2014 5:18 AM
when you have republicans throwing belligerent wars around like free candy, having defiled our presidency as bad as they have, who knows? it's all sorts of messed up now

by: Tom Murphy from: Heartland America
September 02, 2014 3:02 PM
As I have said before, civilized nations need to take every opportunity to relentlessly attack ISIS from the air using carpet bombing, cluster bombs, napalm and daisy cutters/MOAB munitions. If necessary, we can insert forward air controllers to work with local inhabitants and victims on the ground to pinpoint and identify ISIS formations with lasers. Take off the restraints and follow through quickly.
In Response

by: Tom Murphy from: Heartland America
September 05, 2014 12:26 AM
1. Vietnam was fought in the 1970s. That was then. This is now.
2. In Vietnam, unguided "dumb bombs" were used exclusively.
3. US Forces now use "smart munitions" for "one bomb, one kill" accuracy.
4. Al Qaeda and the Taliban were rolled up and slaughtered in huge numbers in Afghanistan by some B-52s and a few forward air controllers and some few Northern Alliance people to identify the enemy.
5. Now that all the fanatical fighters are flocking to the wide open desert lands (not jungle lands) of Iraq and Syria and concentrating themselves in large units, western air power has an unprecedented opportunity to again slaughter them in huge numbers, thus ridding many islamic source countries of their most fanatical murders.
6. ISIS will run out of fighters long before western nations run out of munitions.
7. ISIS cannot strike back to inflict a similar number of casualties against western nations - they don't have the same mobility.
In Response

by: meanbill from: USA
September 02, 2014 7:39 PM
I do believe the US dropped more tonnage of bombs on Vietnam than they used in all the WW2 bombings, (except those atom bombs), and what country won the Vietnam war?.... bombs didn't defeat North Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Iraq, and Afghanistan, did it?
PS;.. and the fear of seeing US troops beheaded on worldwide news and videos, stops Obama from making a (boots on the ground) decision, doesn't it?

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