UPDATE (4 p.m. EDT): U.S. officials are trying to confirm the authenticity of a video that appears to show the beheading of American journalist Steven Sotloff.
“If the video is genuine, we are sickened by this brutal act, taking the life of another innocent American citizen,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. “Our hearts go out to the Sotloff family and we will provide more information as it becomes available.”
In the video, an unidentified ISIS militant covered head to toe in a black robe, addressed President Barack Obama directly.
“I’m back, Obama, and I’m back because of your arrogant foreign policy towards the Islamic State … despite our serious warnings,” he said. “So just as your missiles continue to strike our people, our knife will continue to strike the necks of your people.”
The man specifically mentioned attacks that helped liberate the Mosul Dam and the town of Amirli, which had been under siege for about two months. About 15,000 Shiite Turkmens were stranded there.
At the end of the video, the militant threatens to kill another hostage, David Cawthorne Haines, from Britain. The British Foreign Office declined to comment or say who Haines is or why and how he was captured. British officials raised the terror threat level there last week to its second highest point over fears its citizens fighting with ISIS will redirect attacks to British soil.
The militant who killed James Foley in a video released two weeks ago spoke with a London accent. It wasn’t immediately clear whether the same man killed Sotloff.
OUR EARLIER REPORT (1:30 p.m. EDT): A new video posted online by ISIS militants purports to show another American journalist’s beheading.
Steven Sotloff, 31, who freelanced for Time and Foreign Policy magazines, was kidnapped near the Syrian-Turkish border in 2013. He appeared in the same video that showed fellow journalist James Foley’s murder. The militants threatened to kill Sotloff, too, if America didn’t stop air attacks against their fighters in Iraq.
President Barack Obama said the United States would not be threatened to back down, and airstrikes continued with renewed intensity in the last week.
On Wednesday, Sotloff’s mother, Shirley Sotloff, posted her own video, appealing to the militants to show her son mercy. She said he wanted to report from the Middle East because he was sympathetic to the suffering of Muslims: “He is an honorable man and has always tried to help the weak,” she said.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said he wasn’t sure whether the president had seen the video but insisted the White House was “deeply engaged” in trying to gain freedom for all Americans held hostage in the Middle East: “She obviously, as is evident from the video, feels desperate about the safety and well-being of her son, and understandably so, and that is why our thoughts and prayers are with Mr. Sotloff’s family at this very difficult and trying time.”
Until last week, Sotloff’s parents had been publicly silent about his kidnapping, working behind the scenes with U.S. officials in hopes of securing his release.