A masked figure in the video seen by Reuters also issued 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".
A statement released by Sotloff's family through a spokesman
indicated the family considered the video to be authentic. "The
family knows of this horrific tragedy and is grieving privately.
There will be no public comment from the family during this
difficult time," said the spokesman, Barak Barfi.
The purported executioner appeared to be the same British-accented
man who appeared in an Aug. 19 video of the killing of American
journalist James Foley, and it showed a similar desert setting. In
both videos, the captives wore orange jumpsuits.
In Washington, the White House said it could not immediately confirm
the authenticity of the Sotloff video. But several U.S. government
sources said it appeared to be authentic.
Sotloff, a 31-year-old freelance journalist from Florida, was
kidnapped in Syria in August 2013.
"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 in Amerli, Zumar and the Mosul Dam,
despite our serious warnings," the masked man said in the video,
addressing U.S. President Barack Obama.
"So just as your missiles continue to strike our people, our knife
will continue to strike the necks of your people."
In the video, Sotloff describes himself as "paying the price" with
his life for the U.S. intervention in Iraq.
The White House said late on Tuesday that Obama was sending three
top officials - Secretary of State John Kerry, Defense Secretary
Chuck Hagel and counterterrorism adviser Lisa Monaco - to the Middle
East "in the near-term to build a stronger regional partnership"
against the Islamic State militants.
U.S. officials also said Obama ordered 350 more U.S. military
personnel to protect the large American embassy in Baghdad, bringing
up to about 820 the number of U.S. forces working to bolster
diplomatic security in Iraq.
Sotloff's mother, Shirley, appealed last Wednesday for her son's
release in a videotaped message to Islamic State's self-proclaimed
caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
In the video it released last month, Islamic State said Foley's
death was in retaliation for U.S. air strikes on its insurgents who
have overrun wide areas of northern Iraq.
The United States resumed air strikes in Iraq in August for the
first time since the pullout of U.S. troops in 2011.
The raids followed major gains by Islamic State, which has declared
an Islamic Caliphate in areas it controls in Syria and Iraq.
"We have seen a video that purports to be the murder of U.S. citizen
Steven Sotloff by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant," White
House National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said
in a statement.
"The intelligence community is working as quickly as possible to
determine its authenticity. If genuine, we are appalled by the
brutal murder of an innocent American journalist and we express our
deepest condolences to his family and friends. We will provide more
information when it is available."
Iraq’s outgoing foreign minister, Hoshiyar Zebari, condemned what he
called "this savage killing ... an example of savagery and evil,"
and said it was evidence of the need for Iraq and the West to defeat
"We have a common enemy and the whole world is moving in the right
direction to stop this savagery and brutality," Zebari said. "The
whole world is standing united against IS. They must be defeated so
these horrid scenes will not be repeated."
[to top of second column]
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
British Prime Minister David Cameron condemned Sotloff's apparent
decapitation as "an absolutely disgusting and despicable act (by)
barbaric terrorists". He said he would hold a meeting of his
security crisis team on Wednesday.
French Foreign Minister Laurent
Fabius called the killing a "further illustration of the barbarity
without limit of this caliphate of terror that must be fought with
the utmost determination".
Obama did not answer questions from reporters as he boarded his
helicopter on the White House South Lawn en route to a military base
outside Washington, before flying on Air Force One bound for
The video triggered new calls from Obama's critics in the U.S.
Congress for more decisive action against Islamic State forces.
Critics accused the president of dithering after he said last
Thursday: "We don't have a strategy yet," to confront the operations
of the militant group in Syria.
"Whenever American air power has been employed, in coordination with
reliable partners on the ground, ISIL has been devastated. It’s a
tactic that should be aggressively pursued both in Syria and Iraq,"
said Senator Lindsey Graham, a leading Republican voice on foreign
policy, using an acronym for the Sunni militant group.
The U.S. military announced its latest air strike on Islamic State
forces, saying U.S. aircraft on Monday destroyed or damaged 16 of
the group's armed vehicles near the Mosul Dam in northern Iraq.
Sotloff’s colleagues described him as a dedicated journalist and
gifted writer who had filed in-depth reports from across the Middle
East. He covered unrest in Libya for Time magazine in 2012 before
his kidnapping in Syria.
Time Editor Nancy Gibbs said that Sotloff "gave his life so readers
would have access to information from some of the most dangerous
places in the world."
Filmmaker Matthew VanDyke, a friend of both Steven Sotloff and James
Foley, said the two were aware of the dangers in Syria, but their
passion to tell the story drove them to accept the peril.
"They believed that the story needed to be told and they weren't
going to let the risks stop them," VanDyke said. "They took
precautions and unfortunately even if you do everything right,
sometimes in Syria, things go wrong."
On Aug. 24, al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front militants in Syria freed an
American writer, Peter Theo Curtis, who had been missing since 2012,
following what officials said were efforts by the Gulf Arab state of
Qatar to secure his release.
A U.S. government source told Reuters that a criminal probe by the
Justice Department into Foley's killing was certain to be extended
to include Sotloff.
(Additional reporting by Noah Browning, Mark Hosenball, Ned Parker,
Andrew Osborn, Victoria Cavaliere, John Irish and Jennifer Atkinson;
Writing by William Maclean and Will Dunham; Editing by Mark
Heinrich, Peter Cooney, Eric Beech and Clarence Fernandez)
[© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2014 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.