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Middle East

Mother of American journalist asks IS leader for his release

© AFP/Al Arabiya

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-08-28

Shirley Sotloff (pictured), the mother of an American journalist held hostage by Islamic militants who have threatened to kill him, pleaded for his release Wednesday in a video message aimed directly at his captors.

Sotloff directly addressed the leader of the Islamic State militant group (formerly known as ISIS or ISIL) in seeking the return of her son Steven, 31.

Sotloff said that her son should not be blamed for the actions of the US government in the Middle East. She added that he was a freelance journalist who cared about the  oppressed and those suffering in war zones.

“I want what every mother wants, to live to see her children’s children. I plead with you to grant me this,” she said in the video, aired on the Al Arabiya television network.

Sotloff cited by name the leader of the Islamic State militants, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, asking him to show mercy and follow the example of the Prophet Mohammad.

“You, the caliph, can grant amnesty. I ask you please to release my child. I ask you to use your authority to spare his life,” Sotloff said in the video.

Baghdadi's militants in June declared the creation of an Islamic caliphate across parts of Syria and Iraq, with Baghdadi naming himself the "caliph" and urging the world's Muslims to relocate to areas under the Islamist group's control.

Steven Sotloff was last seen in August 2013 in Syria. Islamic State militants threatened in a video to execute him unless the US stopped its air strikes against the Islamist group in Iraq.

The same video showed the beheading of fellow American journalist James Foley. The US has called Foley's beheading a "terrorist attack" while Britain says it is close to identifying his killer, who spoke with a London accent in the video.

'It was what he loved to do'

White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters that he did not know whether President Barack Obama had seen Shirley Sotloff’s video, but said the administration was “deeply engaged” in trying to gain the release of all Americans held hostage in the Middle East.

“She obviously, as is evident from the video, feels desperate about the safety and well-being of her son, and understandably so. And that is why our thoughts and prayers are with Mr. Sotloff’s family at this very difficult and trying time,” Earnest said.

Sotloff’s former roommate at the University of Central Florida, Emerson Lotzia, said Sotloff's parents initially didn’t want to go public. But Lotzia said he recently spoke to Arthur Sotloff, his father.

“He was in the best of spirits, then he was in the worst of spirits,” said Lotzia, now a local TV sports anchor. “He told me, ‘At last I know my son is alive. But look at the situation.’ It’s killing him, and he’s trying his best to stay on an even keel.”

“A million people could have told him what he was doing was foolish," Lotzia told AP. "It seemed like it to us outsiders looking in. But to him it was what he loved to do and you weren’t going to stop him."

“Steve said it was scary over there. It was dangerous. It wasn’t safe to be over there. He knew it. He kept going back.”

Sotloff has published articles datelined from Syria, Egypt and Libya in a variety of publications, including, the World Affairs Journal and Foreign Policy. He posted links to many of his articles on his Twitter feed, and several focus on the plight of average people in war-torn places such as Aleppo in Syria.

James Denton, publisher and editor-in-chief of the World Affairs Journal, said Sotloff was an occasional and well-regarded contributor.

“He is known to us as an honest and thoughtful journalist who strives to understand the story from local perspectives and report his findings straightforwardly,” Denton said in an email statement to AP. “He is certainly courageous.”

(FRANCE 24 with AP)


Date created : 2014-08-27


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