The Islamic State of Syria and Iraq has reportedly released a video showing the beheading of Steven Joel Sotloff, a U.S. journalist being held by the group.
— SITE Intel Group (@siteintelgroup) September 2, 2014
Sotloff, who has reported for Time magazine and Foreign Policy, has been missing since August 2013. In the video that showed the murder of American journalist James Foley, an ISIS militant brought Sotloff in front of the camera and threatened his life (pictured above via AP).
— NBC News (@NBCNews) September 2, 2014
The news broke moments before the daily White House press briefing began. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said he was “not in a position to confirm the authenticity of the video or the reports.”
“Our thoughts and prayers first and foremost are with his family and those who worked with him,” Earnest said.
“We have seen a video that purports to be the murder of U.S. citizen Steven Sotloff by (ISIS). The intelligence community is working as quickly as possible to determine its authenticity,” Bernadette Meehan, White House National Security Council spokesperson, said in a later statement. “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.”
Sotloff’s condition had been almost entirely unknown to the public until he appeared in the video of Foley’s killing last month, according to the New York Times. He had been abducted in northern Syria, where he was reporting on the ongoing civil war. He had also reported from Bahrain, Egypt, Turkey and Libya, according to the Times.
White House officials acknowledged after Foley’s killing that the U.S. military had attempted earlier this summer to rescue Americans being held by ISIS, but the hostages were not found where they were believed to be.
State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said Tuesday that U.S. intelligence community’s evaluation of the video’s authenticity is expected to begin as soon as possible. The department also said that ISIS had “a few” American citizens in its custody, but would not be more specific for security reasons.
Sotloff’s mother, Shirley, offered a plea for his life in a video message to ISIS published last week by the New York Times.
A Sotloff family spokesperson told the AP on Tuesday that the family “knows of this horrific tragedy and is grieving privately.”
This post has been updated.