The White House said Tuesday it cannot yet authenticate a video released by the Islamic State and purporting to show the beheading of American journalist Steven Sotloff, who has been held in captivity by the terrorist group.
If authenticated, the video would mark the second time in less than a month that the Islamist organization beheaded an American journalist and disseminated video of the death.
Last month, the organization released footage of the beheading of U.S. photojournalist James Foley. In that video, Islamic State fighters also threatened to kill Mr. Sotloff, who was last seen in Syria about a year ago. He worked as a freelance journalist for Time and Foreign Policy magazines.
In the video released Tuesday — titled “A Second Message to America” and threatening that more Americans and Britons will be killed — the man said to be Mr. Sotloff blames President Obama and U.S. intervention in the Middle East for his death, though it’s likely he was coerced into doing so.
“Obama, your foreign policy of intervention in Iraq was supposed to be for the preservation of American lives … so why is it that I’m having to pay the price of the interference with my life. Am I not an American citizen?” the man says, clad in an orange jumpsuit. “Where is the American people’s interest in reigniting this war? I remember a time when you could not win an election without promising to bring our troops back home from Iraq, from Afghanistan and close down Guantanamo … Here you are, Obama, nearing the end of your term and having achieved none of the above … [instead] marching us, the American people, into a blazing fire.”
The video then fades to black before an Islamic State fighter appears on screen.
“I am back, Obama. I am back because of your arrogant foreign policy toward the Islamic State,” the fighter says. “Our knife will continue to strike the neck of your people.”
He then takes a knife to the throat of the man purported to be Mr. Sotloff. The footage fades to black as the victim begins to slump to the ground. The footage returns once more to show a headless torso and the recognizable face from earlier in the video.
Before the video ends, a British man identified as David Haines is then shown kneeling on the ground in an orange jumpsuit. The Islamic State fighter then says that all countries that join America’s coalition will see their nationals murdered.
The video is virtually identical to the earlier footage of Foley’s death. Foley also appeared in an orange jumpsuit and was made to blame his death on U.S. policies.
The next victim — the man purported to be Mr. Sotloff — is then shown on camera and directly threatened.
The videos come in direct response to U.S. military action against the Islamic State in Iraq. President Obama authorized that action last month, saying airstrikes were necessary to guard U.S. personnel and facilities in Iraq and to protect Iraqi civilians threatened by the Islamic State.
Since then, airstrikes have continued, including another round over the weekend.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest was asked about the footage minutes after it surfaced and said any video released by the Islamic State will be reviewed by intelligence personnel.
“I’m not in a position to confirm the authenticity of that video … If there is a video that has been released it is something that will be analyzed very carefully by the U.S. government and our intelligence officials to determine its authenticity,” Mr. Earnest told reporters.
Even though he could not confirm that Mr. Sotloff has been killed, Mr. Earnest still offered condolences to the Sotloff family.
“Our thoughts and prayers, first and foremost, are with Mr. Sotloff and Mr. Sotloff’s family and those who work with him,” he said.
Top Republicans said the video is further proof that the Islamic State, also known by the acronyms ISIL and ISIS, represents a clear threat to Americans and must be defeated. They called for increased U.S. military aid to Iraqi and Kurdish forces fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and more targeted bombings of militant strongholds in both Iraq and Syria.
“I am disgusted by what appears to be another horrendous killing of an American journalist at the hands of ISIS. My thoughts and prayers are with Steven Sotloff’s family,” said Rep. Ed Royce, California Republican and chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “Sadly, ISIS is bringing this barbarity across the region — beheading and crucifying those who don’t share their dark ideology. The threat from this group seems to grow by the day. Working with key allies, the United States needs to be acting urgently to arm the Kurds on the ground who are fighting them, and targeting ISIS from the air with drone strikes.”