ISIS Sends Message through Death of US Journalist

By Alessandra Esguerra,
International News Writer
In a recent video posted online on Tuesday, September 2, an American journalist was beheaded with the jihadist group, Islamic State, claiming responsibility.

The video shows Steven Sotloff kneeling and dressed in an orange smock with his hands tied behind his back, while a masked figure stands in front of him with a knife. In the video, Sotloff says he is “paying the price” for military intervention in Iraq by the U.S. It then shows the brutal execution of Sotloff.

After Sotloff as executed, a new hostage was shown, along with another execution threat. The newest hostage appears to be a British hostage.

Within the video, the masked militant states, “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 execution is the second by the Islamic State, or ISIS as they are commonly referred to, in the last two months. The first journalist to be slain by ISIS was another American by the name of James Foley. Similarly, a video had been posted of Foley’s execution. It was in this video that ISIS threatened to execute Sotloff.

Allegedly, Sotloff had been abducted in northern Syria near the city of Aleppo about a year ago in August 2013 where they may have then brought him to the ISIS-controlled Raqqa. Sotloff’s family had known of his abduction; however, they were advised not to make the information public, out of fear that he would be harmed. Behind the scenes over the past year, work had been done to try and have Sotloff released.

Last week, Sotloff’s mother posted a video, asking ISIS leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, to spare her son’s life. However, supporters of the jihadist group responded by taunting her on social media.

With Sotloff’s death, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, the number of journalists killed in Syria has risen to at least 70.

Additionally, more than 80 have been kidnapped in Syria since the beginning of the civil war. Like Sotloff’s situation, many kidnappings have gone under the radar.

At one point, the UK had tried to rescue one of its citizens from ISIS; however, the rescue attempt had failed.

UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond kept most of the operation a secret; however, he stated, “We will look at every possible option to protect this person.”

Sotloff was a freelance journalist with credentials from Time magazine, Foreign Policy, the Christian Science Monitor, and World Affairs Journal. He mostly reported from various countries, most notably Egypt, Libya, and Syria.

As a journalist in the Middle East, Sotloff had often ignored warnings of the dangers associated with his trade.

He had written articles about a Muslim Brotherhood protest camp, displaced civilians in Syria, and even about the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.

In addition to the dangers of his journalism, Sotloff was also of Jewish descent and was forced to hide his identity from his captors.

For example, according to an anonymous former hostage, Sotloff fasted on the Day of Atonment, which is the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, telling his abductors that “he was sick and didn’t want to eat.”

On the other side, ISIS has grown as an entity throughout the duration of the civil war in Syria.

However, the group began to move into Iraq, taking control of the northern and western areas of the country, where many of the people are a part of the Sunni denomination.

In response to ISIS’s growing influence in the region and their growing violence against ethnic Yazidis and against the Kurdish regional capital of Irbil, the U.S. has ordered airstrikes in the area, prompting the recent executions.

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Sept. 9 print edition.

Contact Alessandra at


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