Second US journalist killed by Isis
Isis militants have killed a second US reporter, releasing a video Tuesday showing a masked militant with a British accent cutting the throat of a US captive.
In the latest footage, 31-year-old reporter Steven Sotloff calmly addresses the camera to say he is a victim of US President Barack Obama’s decision to press on with air strikes in Iraq against the group.
Obama later on Tuesday authorised the deployment of about 350 more troops to beef up security at US diplomatic facilities and to protect personnel in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad.
At the end of the five-minute video recording, discovered online by the private terrorism monitor SITE Intelligence Group, the militant also threatens another captive, identified as British citizen David Cawthorne Haines.
“I’m back, Obama, and I’m back because of your arrogant foreign policy towards the Islamic State,” the black-clad man says, wielding a combat knife and speaking in an English accent.
This was a reference to a video issued last month in which US journalist James Foley was killed, again by a suspected British foreign fighter, and in an almost identical fashion.
The fighter condemned recent US air strikes in the area around the Mosul Dam in Iraq, dating the footage after Foley’s killing.
“So just as your missiles continue to strike the necks of our people, our knife will continue to strike the necks of your people,” he declared.
In previous Isis footage, Sotloff’s life was threatened in retaliation for US strikes against the Sunni extremist group, which has declared an Islamic “caliphate” in regions under its control in Iraq and Syria.
In a warning to Britain, the killer declared: “We take this opportunity to warn those governments that enter this evil alliance of America against the Islamic State to back off and leave our people alone.”
The Sotloff family, who live in Miami, issued a statement through a spokesperson that implicitly confirmed the video as authentic.
“The family knows of this horrific tragedy and is grieving privately. There will be no public comment from the family during this difficult time,” it said.
After Foley’s death, Sotloff’s mother Shirley had addressed a video message to Isis leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi pleading for her son’s life, and insisting he had no influence on US policy.
A US spokesperson said Washington was trying to authenticate the footage, with British Prime Minister David Cameron saying the video depicted an “absolutely disgusting, despicable act”.
Brave and talented reporter
Sotloff’s former employers at Time and Foreign Policy paid tribute to a man widely respected for his intrepid reporting in Syria and the wider region, including a previous stint in Libya.
Sharing on Twitter, Foreign Policy‘s Middle East editor David Kenner dubbed him “a brave and talented reporter”.
Speaking in New Zealand, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said on Wednesday that the world was outraged at the apparent beheading.
“I strongly condemn all such despicable crimes and I refuse to accept that whole communities can be threatened by atrocities because of who they are or what they believe,” Ban said.
The latest brutal murder, which came on the heels of fresh reports of Isis atrocities against Iraqi and Syrian prisoners, will increase pressure on Obama to toughen his stance against the group.
He has promised to be “relentless” in his protection of US citizens in Iraq, but admitted last week that Washington does not yet have a strategy to deal with Isis in its heartland of eastern Syria.
Obama arrived in Estonian capital Tallinn on Wednesday, where he is due to meet Baltic leaders before heading to a Nato summit in Wales. He made no comment on Sotloff’s murder or the situation in Iraq and Syria.
US air strikes have continued since Foley’s killing and on Tuesday appeared to bear fruit, as Iraqi forces continued their fight against Isis, who have seized much of northern Iraq.
War crimes and ethnic cleansing
Isis have reportedly carried out widespread atrocities with human rights group Amnesty International on Tuesday accusing them of war crimes and ethnic cleansing.
In June, Isis swept through much of the Sunni Arab heartland north of Baghdad and then stormed minority Christian and Yazidi areas.
The extremist faction has carried out beheadings, crucifixions and public stonings, and Amnesty accused it of “war crimes, including mass summary killings and abductions” in areas it controls.
Assistance is now arriving in Amerli, brought in both by Shiite militia fighters and the United Nations, which said it had delivered 45 metric tonnes of life-saving supplies.