The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) released a video on Tuesday purporting to show the beheading of U.S. hostage Steven Sotloff, according to the private terrorism monitoring group SITE.
A masked man in the video also issued a threat against a British hostage, who the group named as David Haines, and warned governments to back off “this evil alliance of America against the Islamic State,” the monitoring service said.
The footage, identified by private terrorism monitor SITE and seen by AFP, shows 31-year-old freelance writer Steven Sotloff dressed in orange and on his knees in a desert landscape.
The masked militant condemns U.S. attacks on the ISIS and cuts Sotloff's throat. He then introduces a second captive, identified by name and said to be British.
“I'm back, Obama, and I'm back because of your arrogant foreign policy towards the Islamic State,” the militant says, in apparent reference to a previous video in which U.S. journalist James Foley was murdered.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said he had not been aware of the report before taking the podium at his daily briefing, but added that the administration's “thoughts and prayers” were with Sotloff's family.
“The United States, as you know, has dedicated significant time and resources to trying to rescue Mr Sotloff. I'm not in a position to confirm the authenticity of that video or the reports at this point obviously since I just walked out here but it appears the video that has been released is something that will be analysed very carefully by the U.S. government and our intelligence officials to determine its authenticity,” Earnest told reporters.
U.S. state department spokeswoman Jen Psaki says that if the video is genuine, “we are sickened.”
British Prime Minister David Cameron condemned the purported beheading of the U.S. journalist as "absolutely disgusting, despicable act.”
Psaki said it’s believed that “a few” Americans are believed to still be held by the Islamic State but would not give any specifics, according to Associated Press.
Barak Barfi, a spokesman for the Sotloff family, confirmed the death.
“The family knows of this horrific tragedy and is grieving privately. There will be no public comment from the family during this difficult time,” Barfi said.
Sotloff, 31, who freelanced for Time and Foreign Policy magazines, vanished in Syria in August 2013 and was not seen again until he appeared in a video released online last month that showed James Foley’s beheading.
Sotloff’s mother Shirley Sotloff had appealed last week to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi to “grant amnesty” for her son.
“I am sending this message to you, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi al-Quraishi al-Hussaini, the caliph of the Islamic State. I am Shirley Sotloff. My son Steven is in your hands,” she begins.
“You, the caliph, can grant amnesty. I ask you please to release my child,” she continues. “I ask you to use your authority to spare his life.”
ISIS has terrorized rivals and civilians alike with widely publicized brutality as it seeks to expand a proto-state it has carved out on both sides of the border.
In its rise to prominence over the past year, the extremist group has frequently published graphic photos and gruesome videos of everything from bombings and beheadings to mass killings.
[With Agencies]SHOW MORE