MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Family and friends of an American journalist from South Florida who is being held hostage by Islamic State militants are hoping and praying for his safe return.
Steven Sotloff is a freelance journalist who writes for several news publications including Time magazine. He was kidnapped back in August 2013 near the Syrian-Turkish border.
On a chilling video posted Tuesday on YouTube from ISIS, militants are shown (purportedly) beheading of American journalist James Foley and then threatening to kill a man on his knees, who they claim is Sotloff, if President Barack Obama doesn’t end military operations in Iraq.
In the video a man dressed in black says, “The life of this American citizen, Obama, depends on your next decision.”
Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said she has been in contact with the family for several months and is doing all she can to help the situation.
“I met with the Sotloff family in Miami and have spoken to them over the phone while in DC regarding their son Steven’s situation,” said Rep. Ilean Ros-Lehtinen in a statement. “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 ISIL has no respect for human life.”
The University of Central Florida graduate describes himself on his Twitter page as a “stand-up philosopher from Miami.” His family lives in Pinecrest.
Sotloff’s last post on Twitter was on August 3rd about the Miami Heat. Nearly a month earlier, on June 11th, he posted “Is it bad that i want to focus on Syria but all I can think of is a Heat Finals repeat.”
Just days after he was taken, Sotloff’s sister Lauren posted a message on Facebook.
“I’m not one to usually pray but today is a good day to start.”
“They are in our prayers,” said neighbor Michael Finuccio. “It’s a horrible situation and it’s very deeply disturbing that it’s affecting a neighbor of ours.”
Sotloff’s sister’s boyfriend, Frank Castle, posted a message on his Facebook page Wednesday saying,” This goes out to anyone and everyone that has a heart and soul. My girlfriend Lauren Sotloff’s brother Steven Sotloff was taken hostage by ISIS on August 4, 2013 and up to this point it has been under wraps due to a media blackout. I or anyone else couldn’t bring this to light until now.”
He then posted a petition asking President Obama to take immediate action to save Steven’s life by any means necessary.
Sotloff’s family has not spoken publicly about the devastating situation. There are police officers standing by at their Pinecrest home to help protect their privacy during this difficult time.
Sources told CBS4’s Marybel Rodriguez that Sotloff’s mother may be in Washington.
The disturbing video begins with the beheading of Foley who disappeared in November of 2012 in Northwest Syria. As he is kneeling, Foley reads a message, presumably scripted by his captors, that his “real killer” is America.
“I wish I had more time. I wish I could have the hope for freedom to see my family once again,” he can be heard saying in the video.
Foley had previously been taken captive in Libya and spoke to CBS News after his release in 2011.
Foley’s mother released a message Tuesday evening saying, “We have never been prouder of our son Jim. He gave his life trying to expose the world to the suffering of the Syrian people. We implore the kidnappers to spare the lives of the remaining hostages. Like Jim, they are innocents. They have no control over American government policy in Iraq, Syria or anywhere in the world. We thank Jim for all the joy he gave us. He was an extraordinary son, brother, journalist and person. Please respect our privacy in the days ahead as we mourn and cherish Jim.”
The National Security Council released a statement about the video saying,”The intelligence community is working as quickly as possible to determine its authenticity. If genuine, we are appalled by the brutal murder of an innocent American journalist and we express our deepest condolences to his family and friends.”