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Steven Joel Sotloff

Steven Joel Sotloff (May 11, 1983 – c. September 2, 2014) was an American-Israeli journalist. In August 2013, he was kidnapped inAleppo, Syria, and held captive by militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS). On September 2, 2014, a video was released of ISIS beheading Sotloff.[6][7] Following the execution, U.S. President Barack Obama stated that the United States will take action to "degrade and destroy" ISIS.[8]

Early life and education 

Steven Joel Sotloff held both Israeli and American citizenship, although his Jewishness and Israeli citizenship were not made public during his work in Muslim countries or during his captivity for fear that the information might endanger his release.[4] He was the son of Arthur and Shirley Sotloff of Pinecrest, Florida.[9][10][11] He is a grandson of Holocaust survivors.[12] He grew up in Pinecrest, Florida,[13] graduated from Kimball Union Academy, a private boarding school in Meriden, New Hampshire,[14] and later attended (but did not graduate from) the University of Central Florida with a major in journalism from 2002 to 2004.[15][16] He studied at theInterdisciplinary Center Herzliya in Israel from 2005 to 2008.[17][18] Sotloff previously worked for Temple Beth Am Day School in Florida.[19]


According to Al-Jazeera, Sotloff was in Qatar and wrote a letter of application dated May 29, 2010, to the Arabic for Non Native Speakers (ANNS) faculty at Qatar University.[20] He later traveled around the region with a Yemeni mobile number. His career began during the Arab Spring.[21] Sotloff had worked for the news magazine Time, as well as Christian Science Monitor,[22] The National Interest, Media Line,[5] World Affairs,[23] and Foreign Policy, and has appeared on CNN and Fox News.[9] His work has taken him toSyria a number of times, as well as taking him to Egypt, Turkey, Libya, and Bahrain.[24]

In 2012 he reported in Time magazine, about Al-Qaeda fighters and commanders from Libya flocking to Syria, and shipping Libyan captured arms and ammunition on its way to join the fight to topple Bashar al-Assad's regime.[25][26] He was also was in a reporter team that returned to the compound in Benghazi where the US ambassador and 3 other Americans had been killed on the night of 9/11 that year. He interviewed Libyan security guards who were at the site during the attack.[25][27][28] Fox News reported accordingly aided by an animation, that black Islamist flags were seen and foreign words heard, concluding that the claims by 'Nusrat Al-Sharia' – affiliated with Al-Qaeda, were in fact correct.[29] He named a Libyan militia operative, Ahmad Abu Khattallah, as the head of the Al Qaeda affiliated group (Nusrat al-Sharia) that attacked the US compound and as the man who himself masterminded and lead the attack.[30] He later reported on a tit for tat retaliation pattern following the US attacks on those that committed the attack on the ambassador's compound in Benghazi. A week before entering Libya, he had written from Turkey about the Alawites – believers of Assad's religion, and their support for Assad in Turkey, while another article written on the same day, told about Alawites inside Syria who were against Assad.[31]

Janine Di Giovanni, the Middle East editor of Newsweek, told CNN, "he was concerned that he had been on some kind of a list, and this had been around the time that ISIS had been showing up and taking over checkpoints that had been manned before by the rebels. And he thought he had angered some of the rebels, he didn’t know which ones, by taking footage of a hospital in Aleppo that had been bombed, and he had been very concerned about this."[21]

After his death, Felice Friedson, Sotloff's editor at The Media Line, called him "one of the most courageous, talented and insightful journalists that I have met".[32]
Kidnapping and death[edit]

Sotloff was abducted on August 4, 2013, near Aleppo, after crossing the Syrian border from Turkey.[24][9] He was held in Ar-Raqqah.[5] His family kept the news secret, fearing harm to him if they went public. His family and government agencies were working privately to gain his release for the past year.[33] On August 19, 2014, the terrorist organizationISIS released a video titled "A Message to America", showing the beheading of fellow journalist James Foley.[34] At the end of the video, ISIS threatened U.S. President Barack Obama, telling him that "his next move" will decide the fate of Sotloff.[35]

However, only days after this threat was released, the U.S. stepped up airstrikes against ISIS, firing 14 missiles at various ISIS Humvees near the Mosul Dam.[36]

Shortly after the release of the video, a petition was started on WhiteHouse.gov, calling for President Obama to save Sotloff's life.[37] The petition attracted thousands of signatures within days.[38] On August 27, 2014, Sotloff's mother released a short video asking Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi to release her son.[10]

On September 2, 2014, the SITE Intelligence Group[39][40] discovered the video of Sotloff's execution on what they called "a file-sharing site" entitled "A Second Message to America" and released it to their subscribers.[41] The video was delivered as a "second message to America" to halt airstrikes in Iraq,[42] and shows Sotloff's beheading execution by a masked man, apparently Jihadi John, the same person who killed James Foley.[43][44] In the video, the executioner says, "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 on Mosul Dam, despite our serious warnings. So just as your missiles continue to strike our people, our knife will continue to strike the necks of your people."[45] The White House confirmed the video's authenticity.[46]

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