ISIS has released a video reportedly showing the beheading of American journalist Steven Sotloff, according to The Associated Press.
Sotloff was first taken captive in Syria last summer. He was last seen alive in the video of James Foley’s beheading in mid-August, when ISIS threatened to kill him next if U.S. airstrikes continued.
“I am Steven Joel Sotloff. I’m sure you know exactly who I am by now, and why I am appearing before you,” he says in the video, as an armed militant stands beside him. “And now, it’s time for my message. Obama, your foreign policy of intervention in Iraq was supposed to be for the preservation of American lives and interests. So why is it that I’m having to pay the price of your interference with my life? Am I not an American citizen? You have spent billions of US taxpayers’ dollars and we’ve lost thousands of our troops in our previous fighting against the Islamic State. So where is the American peoples’ interests in reigniting this war?”
Sotloff continues, calmly and slowly, with a steady voice. “From what little I know about foreign policy, I remember a time when you could not win an election without promising to bring our troops back home from Iraq and Afghanistan, and to close down Guantanamo. Here you are now, Obama, nearing the end of your term, and having achieved none of the above. And deceivingly marching us, the American people, into a blazing fire.”
The video then cuts to the terrorist, who many believe to be the same man who beheaded James Foley, saying “I’m back Obama, and I’m back because of your arrogant foreign policy towards the Islamic State. Because of your insistence in continuing your bombings in [unintelligible] Mosul Dam. Despite our serious warnings. You, Obama, have yet to gain, for your actions have killed yet another American citizen. So just as your missiles continue to strike our people, our knife will continue to strike the necks of your people.”
He then pulls Sotloff’s head back and beheads him. “We take this opportunity to warn those governments who’ve entered this evil alliance of America against the Islamic State to back off and leave our people alone,” the terrorist concludes. The video had begun with a recording of President Obama saying “The United States of America will continue to do what we must do to protect our people. We will be vigilant and we will be relentless. When people harm Americans anywhere, we do what is necessary to see that justice is done. And we act against ISIL standing alongside others.”
Sotloff had worked for Time, The National Interest, and Foreign Policy. He had also written opinion pieces for The Daily Caller about the Middle East.
Just last week Sotloff’s mother, Shirley Sotloff, released a video begging ISIS not to kill her son. “I am sending this message to you, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi al-Quraishi al-Hussaini, the caliph of the Islamic State,” she said. “I am Shirley Sotloff. My son Steven is in your hands. You, the caliph, can grant amnesty. I ask you please to release my child. I ask you to use your authority to spare his life.”
“As a mother, I ask your justice to be merciful and not punish my son for matters he has no control over,” she continued. “I ask you to use your authority to spare his life and to follow the example set by the Prophet Muhammad, who protected People of the Book. I want what every mother wants, to live to see her children’s children, I plead with you to grant me this.”
Sotloff was just 31.
Raised in Miami, Florida by his parents Arthur and Shirley, Sotloff majored in journalism at the University of Central Florida from 2002 to 2004. According to the Orlando Sentinel, he had quotes from George Kennan and Ronald Reagan listed as favorites on his Facebook profile, including this statement from Reagan on negotiations: “You’re unlikely to get all you want; you’ll probably get more of what you want if you don’t issue ultimatums and leave your adversary room to maneuver; you shouldn’t back your adversary into a corner, embarrass him, or humiliate him; and sometimes, the easiest way to get things done is for the top people to do them alone and in private.”
His Twitter account paints a picture of a man unafraid of conflict and dangerous situations — as well as one passionate about basketball.
Got pepper sprayed by riot police in Antakya today. Didnt see any #GeziParkı protestors though
— Steven Sotloff (@stevensotloff) July 31, 2013
Is it bad that I want to focus on #syria, but all I can think of is a #HEATFinals repeat?
— Steven Sotloff (@stevensotloff) June 12, 2013
He described himself as a “stand-up philosopher from Miami,” in his Twitter bio. His last tweet was on August 3, 2013, the day before his abduction. He’d spent time in Syria, Libya, and Turkey, and covered the 2012 Benghazi attack that led to Ambassador Chris Stevens’ murder for Time in 2012.