ISIL has released a second video allegedly showing the beheading of journalist Steven Sotloff, according to SITE Intelligence Group.
The terrorist group had previously claimed, in a video released Aug. 19, that Sotloff would be killed if the U.S. continued to attack in Iraq. That threat came in the same video where journalist James Foley was executed by the same group. The new video allegedly also threatens David Cawthorne Haines, a British hostage.
The Wire spoke with Joe Cleffie of SITE to gather more information about the video, which the group found on “one of the jihadi forums.”
“We wouldn’t send it out without verifying it,” Cleffie offered. “It’s him being beheaded.”
SITE has transcribed the video on its website. In the video, Sotloff says he is “paying the price” for U.S. intervention in Iraq, while the same masked fighter who appeared in the video of Foley stands behind him and states the following:
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…
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.
Below is a transcript of Sotloff’s statement in the video:
I am Steven Joel Sotloff. I’m sure you know exactly who I am by now and why I am appearing before you. And now this time for my message:
Obama, your foreign policy of intervention in Iraq was supposed to be for the preservation of American lives and interests, so why is it that I am paying the price of your interference with my life. Am I not an American citizen? You’ve spent billions of U.S. tax payers dollars and we’ve lost thousands of our troops in our previous fighting against the Islamic State, so where is the people’s interest in reigniting this war?
From what little I know about foreign policy, I remember a time you could not win an election without promising to bring our troops back home from Iraq and Afghanistan and to close down Guantanamo. Here you are now, Obama, nearing the end of your term, and having achieving none of the above, and deceivingly marching us the American people in the blazing fire.
Sotloff had disappeared while reporting in Syria in August 2013. Following his appearance in the video of Foley’s beheading, Sotloff’s mother, Shirley, issued a video plea to ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi asking for her son’s return.
The White House Responds
White House press secretary Josh Earnest said during his daily briefing Tuesday he had not seen the video or the reports of Sotloff’s death.
He noted the U.S. military effort to rescue Sotloff and Foley in July, which failed when the hostages were not at the location they targeted.
“Our thoughts and prayers first and foremost are with Mr. Sotloff and his family,” Earnest said. He added that he was “not in a position to confirm the authenticity” of the latest video.
Any new video, he said, would be “analyzed very carefully by the U.S. government and its intelligence officials to determine its authenticity.”
The spokesperson for the U.S. State Department, Jen Psaki, said that if the video is authentic, “we are sickened.”
According to the BBC, British Prime Minister David Cameron has also condemned the video:
Just before 2 p.m., The Wire received a copy of the video that reportedly shows the assassination of Steven Sotloff.
Please note this description of the video is graphic.
The video, which is extremely graphic in nature, was edited in a manner similar to the beheading video of James Foley. The beginning of the video shows President Obama speaking in regards to ISIL and airstrikes several weeks ago. In the next scene, Sotloff introduces himself. Sotloff appears with similarly short hair as Foley did in his video, and with a beard. He is in a similar desert area, wearing the same orange robe as Foley. The area in which this is filmed is extremely windy, unlike Foley’s environment during the beheading video.
After Sotloff’s brief statement, the executioner speaks and is shown putting the knife to Sotloff’s neck. However, just like the Foley video, the murder scene is edited. The video shows only the knife being held up and then the decapitated body, positioned in the same manner as Foley’s.
The end of the video shows a British man, David Cawthrone Haines. The executioner briefly stands next to Haines, grabbing his shirt (another long, orange robe like that of Sotloff and Foley) before releasing him and stepping to the side. The video then turns black and white, quite blurry, before ending.
Of particular note are three major edits: the black screens introducing each part of the video, the editing out of Sotloff’s executioner, and the executioner’s voice. The voice sounds as though it may have been manipulated after the video was shot. While the man in the video appears similar to Foley’s executioner, he sounds slightly deeper and more computerized. In the first video, the voice is being used to identify the executioner, and this may be the reason for the change in this second video.
At 2:24 p.m., the National Security Council Press Office offered this statement:
We have seen a video that purports to be the murder of U.S. citizen Steven Sotloff by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). The intelligence community is working as quickly as possible to determine its authenticity. 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.”
The video has made its way to YouTube, where it is quickly being removed by the site. In the case of the James Foley video, that was removed from both Twitter and YouTube extremely rapidly. Since the removal of the newest video, some news organizations have shown the less morbid clips of the video. Reuters posted a heavily edited version of the video on their YouTube page, with the scenes showing the knife and decapitated body edited out.