James Nye et al., Daily Mail (London), September 2, 2014
ISIS has released a video that shows the beheading of U.S. journalist Steven Sotloff and says the murder is retaliation for the Obama administration’s continued airstrikes in Iraq.
Sotloff is the second American journalist to be killed by ISIS, and his death comes two weeks after James Foley was executed in a similar video.
In the video entitled ‘A Second Message to America,’ Sotloff appears in a orange jumpsuit before he is beheaded by an Islamic State fighter.
The executioner appears to be the same man who killed Foley–known as ‘Jihadi John’–and tells the camera: ‘I’m back, Obama, and I’m back because of your arrogant foreign policy towards the Islamic State.”
He also threatens to kill a Briton held hostage by the group next. Mail Online is not identifying the hostage.
Tonight Prime Minister David Cameron condemned the video, calling it ‘an absolutely disgusting and despicable act’.
He said he will chair a COBR meeting on the threat to a UK citizen tomorrow, and added: ‘My thoughts and prayers are with Mr Sotloff’s family and friends tonight as they deal with this appalling and tragic situation.’
‘We have already been working hard to keep British people safe and we will continue to do all we can to protect our country and our people from these barbaric terrorists.’
President Obama this afternoon boarded Air Force One and flew to Estonia ahead of a NATO summit without addressing the nation. The White House said the President’s ‘thoughts and prayers’ were with the Sotloff family.
Sotloff, 31, from Miami, who freelanced for Time and Foreign Policy magazines, vanished in Syria in August 2013 and was not seen again until he appeared in a video released online last month that showed Foley’s beheading.
In the new video that shows the killing of Sotloff, the executioner points his knife menacingly at the camera as he speaks.
Clad in the same black garb he wore during Foley’s execution, the killer has a pistol strapped under his arm in a shoulder holster. The black flag of the Islamic State can be seen waving in the background.
Sotloff calmly read a statement moments before his murder. ‘I’m sure you know exactly who I am by now and why I am appearing,’ he says.
He adds to the camera: ‘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?’
While he speaks, a militant calmly holds a knife at his side and stands next to Sotloff.
The man believed to be ‘Jihadi John’–the same militant who killed James Foley and suspected to be Briton Abdel-Majed Abdel Bary–then taunts Obama on camera.
He says: ‘As your missiles continue to strike our people, our knife will continue to strike necks of your people.’
‘I’m back Obama, and I’m back because of your arrogant foreign policy towards the Islamic state, because of your insistence on continuing your bombings and . . . on Mosul Dam, despite our serious warnings. You Obama, have but to gain from your actions but another American citizen. So just as your missiles continue to strike out people, our knife will continue to strike the necks of your people.’
Two hours after the video was released, Mr. Sotloff’s family issued a statement to say they believe he has been killed.
‘The family knows of this horrific tragedy and is grieving privately. There will be no public comment from the family during this difficult time,’ the statements said.
Foley’s family released a statement after Sotloff’s execution, calling it ‘just horrific,’ according to WHDH-TV.
The president was in the White House when news broke, preparing for a mid-afternoon departure for Estonia and then Wales, where he will attend a NATO summit. But the White House didn’t immediately comment on how and when Obama heard about Sotloff’s reported death.
American lawmakers were quick to condemn the video as another atrocity against the US.
Rep. Ed Royce, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement that he was ‘disgusted by what appears to be another horrendous killing of an American journalist at the hands of ISIS.’
‘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.’
The Pentagon refused to confirm the video of Steven Sotloff’s murder today and said they were working to authenticate it with intelligence officials.
Rear Admiral John Kirby said: ‘We still can’t confirm this next video and potential new murder . . . We are trying to find out the ground truth here.’
On Thursday, Sotloff’s mother Shirley Sotloff went on television to make a direct appeal for her son’s life. She addressed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-claimed caliph of ISIS.
‘My son is in your hands,’ Ms Sotloff said. ‘As a mother I ask Your Justice to be merciful and not punish my son for matters he has no control over. I ask you to use your authority to spare his life.’
The SITE Intelligence Group, a U.S. terrorism watchdog, first reported about the video’s existence.
Unlike Foley’s beheading, which was widely shared on Twitter accounts affiliated with the Islamic State group, the video purporting to show Sotloff’s killing was not immediately posted online, though several jihadi websites told users to expect it Tuesday.
The fighter who beheads Sotloff in the video called it retribution for Obama’s continued airstrikes against the group in Iraq.
Sotloff’s mother had pleaded for his release last week in a video directed at the Islamic State group.
Addressing the leader of the Islamic State group by name, Shirley Sotloff said in a video her son was ‘an innocent journalist’ who shouldn’t pay for U.S. government actions in the Middle East over which he has no control.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest offered his sympathies to the Sotloff family. He said of the video: ‘This is something that the administration has obviously been watching carefully since this threat against Mr. Sotloff’s life was originally made a few weeks ago,’ he added.
‘I’m not in a position to confirm the authenticity of that video, or reports, obviously,’ he cautioned, ‘since I just walked out here.’
‘But if there is a video that has been released, it is something that will be analyzed very carefully by the U.S. government and our intelligence officials to determine its authenticity.’
‘Our thoughts and prayers, first and foremost, are with Mr. Sotloff and Mr. Sotloff’s family and those who worked with him,’ he said. ‘The United States, as you know, has dedicated significant time and resources to try and rescue Mr. Sotloff.’
At the State Department a rattled spokeswoman Jen Psaki confused the executions of Foley and Sotloff.
‘We certainly consider this act, this reported act, the act of the killing of James Foley, as a horrific terrorist act.’ she said.
Foley was the first U.S. journalist beheaded in an ISIS video. His death first aroused Americans’ anger two weeks ago.
‘If the video is genuine,’ Psaki said, ‘we are sickened by this brutal act, taking the life of another innocent American citizens. Our hearts go out to the Sotloff family.’
Asked if the Obama administration will regard Sotloff’s execution as an ‘act of war,’ she refused to engage in semantics.
‘We certainly–I’m not going to put new labels on it,’ Psaki said.
‘I don’t think it’s a useful exercise to go back and forth about new terms,’ she said later. ‘What’s important is what we’re doing about it.’
Videos like the one that surfaced Tuesday, she told reporters, have ‘been one of the motivating factors in the effort to undergo the creation of an international coalition to address this threat.’
Psaki would not say how many other captives ISIS is holding from the U.S. and other Western nations.
‘We don’t get into specific numbers, for the safety and security of individuals,’ she said.
‘We’ve said “a few.” That continues to be accurate.’
The chilling threat to execute a UK hostage is a direct challenge to Prime Minister David Cameron and will send shockwaves through the British government.
Only last week Mr Cameron warned that ISIS was now a ‘greater threat to our security than we have seen before’.
After the beheading of journalist James Foley, Mr Cameron rushed back from his holiday in Cornwall to condemn ‘the barbaric and brutal act’.
On Friday the Prime Minster warned that the killers were likely to be British.
The Prime Minister was addressing Tory MPs in a private meeting in Parliament this evening when he was informed of the latest video.
At the end of the meeting of the Conservative backbench 1922 committee, Mr Cameron was seen looking at his blackberry before emerging to address journalists.
It comes just 24 hours after Mr Cameron outlined a fresh crack down on extremists returning from the Middle East to wage war on Britain.
He announced that police will be given the power to seize the passports of terror suspects trying to join jihadists fighting in Iraq and Syria.
He also revealed the Government was considering new powers to force jihadis living in the UK to relocate, while airlines will be compelled to hand over passenger lists before flights take off.
New laws will also be considered to prevent terrorists returning to ‘wreak havoc’ on the streets of Britain by removing their citizenship if they are fighting for ISIS abroad.
The Prime Minister admitted the Government would ‘continue to consider’ what further action Britain could take against the ISIS fighters in the Middle East–including what ‘military measures we might take’.
In the Commons, Mr Cameron was asked directly if he was ‘open to the idea of direct military participation in airstrikes’.
He replied: ‘I don’t rule anything out. I don’t think we should.’ He added: ‘We should consider everything.’
The Islamic State group which has taken over a third of Syria and Iraq has terrorized rivals and civilians alike with widely publicized brutality as it seeks to expand a proto-state it has carved out on both sides of the border.
In its rise to prominence over the past year, the extremist group has frequently published graphic photos and gruesome videos of everything from bombings and beheadings to mass killings.