Obtained by ABC News(MIAMI) — As the world waits to see what the terrorist group ISIS will do to American journalist Steven Sotloff, held under threat of death unless the U.S. stops intervening in Iraq, Sotloff’s family awaits his fate from their Florida home.
Sotloff’s parents have declined any media interviews and asked for privacy after it was revealed on Tuesday that Sotloff was being held by ISIS.
In a disturbing video that surfaced online Tuesday, Sotloff appeared on his knees in an orange jumpsuit as an armed black-clad figure stood behind him, gripping him by the shirt. Moments before in the video, the same figure had brutally murdered American journalist James Foley, saying his death was in retaliation for U.S. airstrikes on ISIS targets in Iraq and Sotloff could be next.
“The life of this American citizen, Obama, depends on your next decision,” the masked man says in what appears to be a British accent, referring to a stoic Sotloff.
At the time of his capture, Sotloff had been covering the Middle East for years as a freelance reporter, including stints in Yemen and Egypt. He wrote for Time magazine, the Christian Science Monitor, the Daily Caller, Foreign Policy, and most recently for World Affairs Journal.
The 31-year-old reporter studied journalism at the University of Central Florida, according to the Orlando Sentinel. His articles online show heartfelt reporting about the brutality of the Syrian war.
His parents live in Miami, and Sotloff’s last Tweet, from August 2013, is about the Miami Heat NBA team.
His Twitter feed, which is his major online presence beyond his reported stories, shows a mix of humor and seriousness about his reporting.
— Steven Sotloff (@stevensotloff) June 12, 2013
Friends of Sotloff and his family have started a White House petition urging the government to do all it can to rescue the freelance reporter.
“Steven Sotloff is an American citizen and reporter with Time magazine who is believed to have gone missing in August of 2013,” the petition reads. “Today, on August 19, 2014 it was revealed that Steven is a captive of the Islamist terrorist organization ISIS.”
“We, the undersigned call upon you, President Obama, to take immediate action to save Steven’s life by any means necessary,” it says. The petition has 7,336 signatures.
Matthew Van Dyke, a documentary filmmaker, self-described “revolutionary” and friend of Sotloff’s, told ABC News that the two last saw each other in Washington, D.C., just a few weeks before Sotloff’s disappearance. Van Dyke has reported from the Middle East, and joined the fighting during the Libyan revolution, and was held as a prisoner of war.
“We were talking about his upcoming trip to Syria,” Van Dyke said. “I feel horrible for what he’s going through, I can’t really imagine. I mean I thought I had a tough time in Libya but to be held by ISIS for this long, Steven’s been there for a year now and who knows what kind of conditions they’re in. It’s absolutely horrifying. I can’t imagine it.”
World Affairs, the journal that had most recently employed Sotloff, described him as “an honest and thoughtful journalist who strives to understand the story from local perspectives and report his findings straightforwardly. He is certainly courageous.”
“He was not on assignment from World Affairs when captured. It is our hope and prayer that Steven is returned home to his family and loved ones safely,” James Denton, publisher and editor of the magazine said in a statement.
A day after the video emerged in which the ISIS militant threatened Sotloff’s life, President Obama addressed the nation, saying the whole world was “appalled” at what ISIS had done. Hours later, the U.S. military announced it was continuing its bombing campaign targeting ISIS.
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