Steven Sotloff, journalist held captive by the Islamic State, went missing in Syria

Steven J. Sotloff, the second American journalist depicted in an Islamic State video of James Foley’s execution, had traveled in and out of Syria several times and had near-death experiences there before he was captured in 2013, a source familiar with his case told The Washington Post.

Sotloff is said to have been kidnapped Aug. 4, 2013. His abduction occurred shortly after crossing the border into northern Syria from Turkey, the source said. Sotloff’s family chose to keep the information quiet, believing it would keep him safer, but have continued to work with officials in Washington in an effort to secure his release.

“I met with the Sotloff family in Miami and have spoken to them over the phone while in D.C. regarding their son Steven’s situation,” U.S. Rep. Illeana Ros-Lehtinen (R.-Fla.) said Wednesday. “My office has contacted the relevant agencies, departments and even organizations with connections on the ground in Syria to try to get answers for the Sotloff family. This is a tragic situation and we have seen that [the Islamic State] has no respect for human life.”

The militants thrust Sotloff’s capture into the spotlight in the video they released Tuesday that showed the beheading of Foley, 40. Like Sotloff, he was a freelance journalist who was covering the civil war in Syria when he was captured. U.S. officials said Wednesday morning that they believe the video is authentic. Sotloff appears at the end of the video.

Foley’s purported executioner identifies Sotloff and says that his life depends on President Obama’s next decision, after criticizing a series of airstrikes in Iraq that Obama authorized Aug. 7 to stop the Islamic State’s bloody advance across northern Iraq. Sotloff is a Florida native, and a former student at the University of Central Florida.

On his Twitter page, he describes himself as a “stand-up philosopher from Miami” and Miami Heat basketball fan who had been published by several news organizations, including Time magazine and Foreign Policy magazine. Sotloff has reported from Egypt, Turkey, Libya, Bahrain and Syria, among other countries, according to his Twitter feed and past news articles.

In one September 2012 tweet, he posted a video that he says showed he was being targeted by Syrian regime fighter jets in the city of Aleppo:

In others, he describes the violence in Aleppo:

In the aftermath of the deadly Sept. 11, 2012, attack on U.S. compounds in Benghazi, Libya, Sotloff reconstructed what occurred for Time using interviews with Libyan security guards and militia fighters who were nearby. He described U.S. Marines arriving to help from the U.S. embassy in Tripoli, and their difficulties in getting to a CIA annex.

More recently before his abduction, he had filed stories from Syria for Foreign Policy describing the Syrian regime’s targeting of civilians in Aleppo and the refugee crisis near the Turkish border.

The family of Sotloff has not yet spoken on his disappearance. A petition to the White House has circulated widely on social media since the video’s release calling on the U.S. government to “do everything possible to free American reporter Steven Sotloff from ISIS in Syria and save his life.”

Ann Marlowe, a writer and businesswoman, said on Twitter that Sotloff lived in Yemen for many years, spoke Arabic and loved the Islamic world. “For this,” she said, “he is threatened with beheading.”

Dan Lamothe covers national security for The Washington Post and anchors its military blog, Checkpoint.
Comments
Show Comments

Get the Checkpoint newsletter

Sign up for twice-weekly updates from Checkpoint.

Most Read World
Next Story
Dan Lamothe · August 19