On September 2, 2014, the militant group Islamic State released a video that purported to show the beheading of freelance journalist Steven Sotloff, who held joint American and Israeli citizenship. The following day, U.S. President Barack Obama confirmed the video was authentic.
Sotloff was the second American murdered by Islamic State in a span of only a few weeks. On August 19, the group posted a video claiming to show the beheading of U.S. freelance journalist James Foley and threatening to do the same to Sotloff. Islamic State claimed to have executed the journalists in retribution for U.S. military intervention in Iraq. In August, the U.S. had launched air strikes in Iraq in an attempt to prevent militants from taking control of key areas, news reports said.
Sotloff, who wrote for outlets including Time and Foreign Policy, was abducted along with his Syrian fixer and driver in August 2013 shortly after crossing the Turkish-Syrian border, according to a Syrian familiar with the abduction who asked not to be identified for fear of retribution. The Syrians were released in the following days, but Sotloff remained captive for more than a year, along with several other international journalists held hostage by Islamic State.
At the request of the family, CPJ did not publicize the case until the release of the video purporting to show Foley’s murder. In a video released on August 27, 2014, Sotloff’s mother, Shirley Sotloff, pleaded with the leader of Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, to show mercy and release her son.
As with Foley, it is not clear exactly where and when Islamic State murdered Sotloff.