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.