Second time in as many weeks
A video released Tuesday by the militant group Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) purports to show the beheading of American journalist Steven Sotloff. If the video is authentic, it would be the second time ISIS has killed an American journalist in as many weeks.
The video was first obtained and released by the SITE Intelligence Group, which tracks the online activities of terrorist groups. The video, which TIME is not publishing and whose authenticity U.S. officials couldn’t immediately confirm, is similar to the video released last month of an ISIS militant killing American journalist James Foley. It depicts Sotloff, clearly under duress, criticizing American foreign policy before a warning from his masked killer and a threat to kill another foreign journalist.
“You, Obama, have but to gain from your actions but another American citizen,” the masked killer says into the camera, addressing President Barack Obama. “So just as your missiles continue to strike our people, our knife will continue to strike the necks of your people.”
“We take this opportunity to warn those governments that enter this evil alliance of America against the Islamic State to back off and leave our people alone,” the militant says.
Sotloff, a freelance journalist who had written for TIME among other outlets, had been held by ISIS since he was taken captive in Syria more than a year ago.
“We are shocked and deeply saddened by reports of Steven Sotloff’s death,” TIME editor Nancy Gibbs said in a statement. “Steven was a valued contributor to TIME and other news organizations, and he gave his life so readers would have access to information from some of the most dangerous places in the world. Our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family.”
The Obama Administration said Tuesday that intelligence officials are working 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,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.
Bernadette Meehan, a spokesperson for the National Security Council, said the U.S. intelligence community “is working as quickly as possible to determine [the video's] authenticity.”
“Our thoughts and prayers, first and foremost, are with Mr. Sotloff and Mr. Sotloff’s family and those who worked with him,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said.
ISIS has for months been mounting attacks and capturing territory across Iraq and along the Iraq-Syria border, even in the face of American airstrikes. The U.S. launched a raid in Syria in an attempt to free Foley and Sotloff earlier this summer, Pentagon officials said after Foley’s death, but American forces did not find the captives at the target location. Following Foley’s execution, the U.S. officials began considering expanding the air campaign against ISIS in Iraq and into Syria.