In a sign of disorganization — or perhaps dissension — in the extremist group’s ranks, a faction of the Islamic State apparently posted the video early, before it was supposed to be released. In a later Twitter message, those responsible apologized and asked fellow jihadis not to “reproach” them.
The Islamic State has terrorized rivals and civilians alike with widely publicized brutality as it seeks to expand a proto-state it has carved out on both sides of the border. In its rise to prominence over the past year, it has frequently published graphic photos and gruesome videos of bombings, beheadings and mass killings.
Last week, Sotloff’s mother, Shirley Sotloff, pleaded with his captors for mercy, saying in a video that her son was “an innocent journalist” and “an honorable man” who “has always tried to help the weak.”
Sotloff grew up in the Miami area, graduated from Kimball Union Academy, a prep school in New Hampshire, and then attended the University of Central Florida, which said he majored in journalism from 2002 to 2004 but apparently left without graduating.
Just how Sotloff made his way from Florida to Middle East hotspots is not clear. He published articles from Syria, Egypt and Libya in a variety of publications. Several focus on the plight of ordinary people in war-torn places.
In a statement, Foreign Policy magazine said it was saddened by news of his death and called him a “brave and talented journalist” whose reporting “showed a deep concern for the civilians caught in the middle of a brutal war.”
Time Editor Nancy Gibbs said Sotloff “gave his life so readers would have access to information from some of the most dangerous places in the world.”
House Foreign Affairs Chairman Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., said the new video demonstrates the Islamic State’s “barbarity across the region — beheading and crucifying those who don’t share their ideology.” He said the U.S. and allies need to step up military action against the group, including through airstrikes.
At Sotloff’s parents’ home in Pinecrest, Fla., two police vehicles blocked the driveway Tuesday, and officers advised journalists to stay away. Friends of the family could be seen coming and going.
“Everyone’s been concerned. Everyone is grieving,” neighbor Pepe Cazas said. “It’s terrible. I’ve been praying for him.”