A new video attributed to the Islamic State terrorist organization purports to show the beheading of U.S. journalist Steven Sotloff, marking the second such execution in recent weeks by a group that controls parts of Iraq and Syria and has threatened to kill other captives.
The video shows a bound Sotloff being held at knifepoint by a black-clad militant against a desert backdrop that appears similar to the one shown in a recent video depicting the beheading of American journalist James Foley. The new video was obtained by the SITE Intelligence Group, an organization that tracks the online postings of Islamist militant groups.
Sotloff, a 31-year-old freelance journalist, had written for Time magazine, Foreign Policy and other publications. He was believed to have been taken captive shortly after entering Syria in 2013. His mother recently released a video pleading with the Islamic State for her son’s release.
A spokesman for the Sotloff family declined to comment publicly on the video, saying: “The family knows of this horrific tragedy and is grieving privately.”
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the United States has not yet verified the authenticity of the video.
“We’ve seen reports of the video that purports to be the murder of U.S. citizen Steven Sotloff,” Psaki told reporters. “The intelligence community will work as quickly as possible to determine its authenticity. If the video is genuine, we are sickened by this brutal act taking the life of another innocent American citizen.”
The unidentified militant in the latest video denounces the Obama administration, saying, “I’m back, Obama, and I’m back because of your arrogant foreign policy towards the Islamic State.” He cites recent U.S. airstrikes against the group in Iraq and warns that “just as your missiles continue to strike our people, our knife will continue to strike the necks of your people.”
The militant speaks with a British accent, raising the possibility that the executioner is the same individual who killed Foley.
In the video, another hostage is shown and identified as David Cawthorne Haines, a Briton. In an apparent reference to Britain, the executioner warns “governments that enter this evil alliance of America . . . to back off and leave our people alone.” Haines is shown in the same kneeling position and wearing the same orange jumpsuit as Sotloff and Foley before him.
Haines, an aid worker, was abducted in March 2013 near the Atmeh refugee camp adjoining the Turkish border in the northern Syrian province of Idlib, according to aid workers who have been involved in efforts to secure his release.
Adam Goldman, Anne Gearan and Karen DeYoung in Washington and Liz Sly in Beirut contributed to this report.