Islamic State executes American reporter, threatens Brit

The Islamic State released a video of the execution of Steven Joel Sotloff, an American journalist captured in Syria in August 2013, and threatened to kill a British captive if the US does not halt airstrikes in northern Iraq. Sotloff, who contributed to The Long War Journal in 2011, is the second American beheaded by the Islamic State in two weeks.

The short video, which begins with a clip of President Barack Obama explaining the reasoning for the US military’s re-engagement in Iraq, was obtained by the SITE Intelligence Group. After the Obama clip is played, Sotloff, whose hands are cuffed behind his back and is wearing an orange jumpsuit, is shown kneeling in the desert. A masked Islamic State fighter dressed in black and wielding a knife stands to Sotloff’s side.

After Sotloff issues a brief statement that chastises Obama for military involvement in Iraq, the Islamic State fighter taunts the US president.

“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 [unclear] on Mosul Dam, despite our serious warnings. You, Obama, have but to gain from your actions but another American citizen. So just as your missiles continue to strike our people, our knife will continue to strike the necks of your people,” the jihadist says.

The Islamic State fighter then moves behind Sotloff, grabs his chin, and beheads him. The camera then cuts away, and Sotloff’s body with his head placed on his back is shown.

The black-clad Islamic State fighter is next shown with David Cawthorne Haines, a British hostage. Haines is also dressed in an orange prison jumpsuit and is kneeling on the ground as the Islamic State fighter speaks.

“We take this opportunity to warn those governments that enter this evil alliance of America against the Islamic State to back off and leave our people alone,” the jihadist says.

Haines appears at the end of the video, just as Sotloff was shown at the end of the beheading video of James Wright Foley, which was released on Aug. 19. In that video, the Islamic State threatened to behead Sotloff if the US did not cease airstrikes against the group in northern Iraq.

Despite the threat, the US government refused to halt the strikes, and expanded operations to support Kurdish and Iraqi forces to retake the Mosul Dam, as well as an offensive by Iraqi forces and an Iranian-backed Shia militia to break the Islamic State’s siege of Amerli.

In the airstrikes, which began on Aug. 7, the US military has destroyed numerous Islamic State armored personnel carriers, armored vehicles, artillery pieces, and technicals and pickup trucks, in addition to fixed fighting positions. The number of Islamic State fighters and commanders killed in the airstrikes has not been disclosed. On Aug. 31, CENTCOM said it had launched a total of 120 airstrikes so far against the Islamic State.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • Mr T. says:

    Killing fighters on the battlefield is not the same thing as the cowardly brutal killing of a reporter with his hands tied behind his back.
    It appears ISIL or ISIS is just a bunch of cowards who hide behind civilians and fight unarmed reporters to do their bidding.
    But most Islamic militants are cowards who would rather die than live in this world and deal with real life. They are trying to escape from their own demons.

  • Birbal Dhar says:

    His death is certainly pre-planned, even if Obama decided to stop air strikes, it looks like they were probably all killed on the same day. Interestingly they took out a British hostage, which means they probably ran out of American hostages. I believe the other American hostages in Syria are probably held by Al-Nusra (Syria’s Al Qaeda branch).

  • donowen says:

    IS thinks that removing the head off a dead man is somehow going to alter policy-it will not. The man is dead- cutting his head off or urinating on the corpse does not alter the primary issue-you killed him. IS is beginning to degrade and face moral problems as many of its members are incinerated by very large 225 plus kg bombs (F-18 500lbs laser guided) rather than ~10 kg tank rounds etc., allowing funerals. Many of these people simply no longer exist as anything- their are no wounded no survivors-exactly what they have done to others. There is no cavalry coming to their aid-now this has started it will not end. The obvious success of this limited bombing will follow these individuals all the way back into Syria. If they wait too long all their escape routes will be cut off and they will face total elimination.

  • DonDoes30 says:

    This is gotten pretty out of hand. I’m waiting to see what the response is going to be.

  • Erik says:

    I’m not sure what to expect from this in terms of a response. We did not step down a couple weeks ago when Foley was killed, however I wouldn’t say we truly ramped up, either.
    I can’t see this being the reason to start a land campaign, though. I would say in all likelihood, we can start to see a growth in offensive airstrikes( not thinly veiled “defensive” ones).

  • Khan says:

    This is very interesting. How accurate is this?
    Spillover effect: ISIS making inroads into Pakistan, Afghanistan:

  • James says:

    This is why I’ve been saying all along that these kind of thugs need to be outright eliminated. They don’t need to be captured or read any rights or gotten for any supposed intel value. It would be like trying to capture the devil.
    These thugs are nothing but war criminals of the lowest sort. They are less human than the Nazis that brought about the holocaust.
    “We love death more than you love life” they like to say. Anyone possessed with such a morbid mentality as that the only thing one can ever give them would be death. They want to die and we should not hesitate to much oblige their morbid desire.
    I hope and pray to God that one of our Navy Seals get their hands on this guy and just pound the living crap out of the guy that did this.
    May it be scrawled on their grave markers (if they even get one): “GONE AND FORGOTTEN ! ! ! ”
    People, this is a matter of our right to exist.
    As far as Assad is concerned, he needs to be gotten rid of just as well.

  • Jake says:

    Sotloff and Foley weren’t killed on the same day. This is evidenced by the hair growth of Sotloff compared to his appearance in the Foley video in which he was clean shaven. RIP Sotloff, Foley, and all of the other journalists who have died in the line of duty, reporting the stories that need to be told.

  • Arjuna says:

    Did SITE really snatch this awful evidence of Sotloff’s murder from a chatroom and get it out without the fanatics wanting it distributed? If so, congrats to Katz and Co.!! Way to wrongfoot the enemy.
    If Islamic State are now banning snuff films, it means they are learning. And getting closer to the beliefs of “The Base”. I smell a rapprochement with Al Qaeda on the horizon. That was not Islamic State’s stuff on the Tunisian’s Dell laptop, that was AQ’s. Why do they want Lady AQ too? I believe there is much more collaboration going on behind the scenes than media reports suggest.

  • Eric says:

    You cannot detect the first hint of a justification present in ISIS decrees. The message ISIS conveys to the world is shameless truculence, a self-worship of the group itself. They hold up the most hideous crime, proud of the obscenity, issuing a demand to Free World values, and insulting the free world in the most repulsive way at the same time. If you wanted to come up with a way to get the Free World into a fury, and get them to come out swinging, this would be it. Obviously, ISIS wants the USA, and every other nation in the world that won’t stand for their sheer arrogance and the perverse delight with atrocity that inspires a televised beheading of a man of the press. If they truly wanted to be left alone, this was not the way to get their wish. I admit it, I will remember this story for the rest of my life. I am anxious to see its’ final chapter written and delivered on ISIS as the Free World’s answer to Political Islam’s version of Totalitarian Rule through Terror, a religious order forced upon a land through blatant hatred and a virulent devotion to the extermination of everything except itself. ISIS is the social equivalent of Ebola.
    I would start to clap my hands if the islamic world would rise up in public condemnation of ISIS and profess with angry throngs of people that there is a distance opened between them and the cancerous disease of militant Islam. My hands are outstretched, palms up, conveying in my shocked silence why in the hell do I not SEE this happening? Why are all the muslims in the world just quietly watching this, and not FURIOUS about it, demanding an end to ISIS existence? The silence of the Muslim Community is deafening. I may never feel the same way again.

  • Fred says:

    I think what the President is doing is the right move. I don’t usually believe in “limited engagements”, but in this case we need to hit them without fighting them. If we put forces on the ground, it’s a PR victory for them, and when troops start dying they can claim victory no matter what else is going on.
    The drone campaign denies them all that. They aren’t fighting us, they’re just being hunted by us. Libya demonstrated that the strategy can win wars. I think if we keep doing what we’re doing, providing air support to the Shia and Kurdish forces, we can win without having to fight.
    This might be the strategy that can finally win the war on terror. Our air support assisting local allied forces on the ground.

  • Barry Larking says:

    The accent of the man who speaks in these videos is said to be British. I have listened to only the last of the two tapes that accompanied footage of the murder of Mr Sotloff. (He is being avenged as I write this.) I recognise the accent well from my own time living and working in south east London. It is similar in character to that of males of West Indian descent. I take this man to be a convert to Islam, as with a few others (c.f Germaine Lindsay a suicide bomber on the London Underground, 2007) who have turned up in terror related cases.

  • blert says:

    The British government has already identified him.
    He’s getting plenty of press — courtesy of Fleet Street.
    He grew up in a very wealthy home — and left the London life for jihad.
    He also had a VERY high profile in London — as a radical Muslim fanatic.

  • irebukeu says:

    Why does virtually every western media source claim that most if not all the executed hostages going back to Nick Berg, were all wearing Orange Jumpsuits? It is so very clear in these last two murders that the victims were clearly not wearing anything like a jumpsuit. Nick Berg also was not wearing a orange jumpsuit but it wasn’t obvious in his execution video.
    Only when his body was recovered, still in the clothes he was murdered in, was it obvious he was not wearing a jumpsuit.
    From the above article –‘After the Obama clip is played, Sotloff, whose hands are cuffed behind his back and is wearing an orange jumpsuit, is shown kneeling in the desert’.
    In this article on the previous murder a picture is presented along with this text–
    ‘Then, the video cuts to Foley, whose hands are cuffed behind his back and is wearing an orange jumpsuit, and an Islamic State fighter dressed in black’
    It is very clear in the picture presented on the LWJ, that Foley is NOT wearing a jumpsuit but is clearly wearing a shirt and pants.
    I have not seen the videos of the 2 murders but have seen some screen captures in the media. Both victims are NOT wearing jumpsuits. It is also claimed in this article that the British hostage threatened to be the next victim is also wearing a orange jumpsuit. I have not seen any screen captures of David Haines so I cannot speak to what he is wearing in the video. My guess it that, like the others, he is wearing a shirt and pants.
    I know this must seem like a minor point to many but it is a mistake in reporting and is inaccurate and so should be corrected if not in the general media then right here on the LWJ.
    I cannot imagine that this has been some kind of honest mistake on the part of most western media as I don’t notice middle eastern news outlets making the same error. It is so obvious in these last 2 videos that I can only think it is intentional.
    It would be more accurate (but still wrong) to claim the victims were wearing “track suits” as track suits are known to be 2 pieces. A jumpsuit is always one piece.
    My heart goes out the the families of these two heros (yes heros). A real hero runs into burning buildings to save children from fire. These heros ran, unarmed, into a burning war zone to save the truth and to get the story out. I could not do it, This brings out a deep respect from me for those who do it everyday.
    Thank you once again LWJ, for bringing these stories to us. I point out these small errors in an attempt only to improve accuracy here. I do not mean to offend anyone.

  • Its my understanding from news reports that the funding of ISIS , and its weapons caches, come directly from Gulf States. Moreover it is selling stolen Oil into Kurdistan which then sells it to the USA and Israel, providing more indirect support. its origins are in the Syrian conflict rebel brigades directly supported by Turkey and other NATO member states. [Reuters ]

    Then the sophistication of the video propaganda is incredible, these are captives reading teleprompter or auto cue messages as you watch their eyes read, they are shot on a blue screen synethetic exterior background, with an internal audio recording, and pre and post production mixed using high quality video software. Most likely these are produced in studios, where can ISIS access a blue screen modern production facility?

    Qatar’s Al Jazeera has allegedly called these fake Hollywood productions, and we know from earlier reports that foreign intelligence agencies have admitted to producing fake jihadi videos.
    The ISIS alliance with the Syrian rebels, and their trading with Kurdish oil exporters, their arming and funding from the Gulf, their safe haven from Israel who could easily employ air attacks adjacent to Golan, suggest ISIS may be synthetic terror from a foreign intelligence organization (s), targeting the USA for deception operations and baiting them into another loss and defeat in Iraq.

    This is a serious counter-intelligence threat for the United States.


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