MIAMI (CBSMiami) — The family of an American journalist from Miami who is being held hostage by Islamic State militants have asked for privacy, but the man’s mother did take a moment to comment to CBS4 News.
Steven Sotloff, a 31-year-old freelance journalist who writes for several news publications including Time magazine, was kidnapped back in August 2013 near the Syrian-Turkish border.
CBS4’s Peter D’Oench briefly spoke with Shirley Sotloff outside of her home as she was returning from an errand. She said, “he is still alive, so there is nothing to say.”
It is the first time she has spoken publicly since the kidnapping of her son a year ago.
On a chilling video posted Tuesday on YouTube from ISIS, militants are shown beheading American journalist James Foley and then threatening to kill a man on his knees, 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.”
Sotloff’s family, who lives in Pinecrest, has asked their friends and neighbors to stop speaking with the media as they work with the Obama administration to resolve the situation. Pinecrest police have a 24-hour a day watch over the home to make sure there are no unwanted visitors including members of the media. The police said even if the media wasn’t there they would still be watching over the house.
Sotloff’s sister’s boyfriend, Frank Castle, posted a message on his Facebook page Wednesday which read:
“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.
CBS4 has learned more than 7,000 people had signed that petition as of late Thursday afternoon.
Neighbors outside the Sotloff circle said they are struck by how close they’ve now become to the international story of Sotloff’s kidnapping and the beheading of fellow journalist James Foley.
“It just brings it very close to home and being a man who served in the Armed Forces, I hope this country gets better because things have gotten really bad lately,” said Jorge Garcia.
Some friends have spoken out about Sotloff including his college roommate, Emerson Lotzia Jr.
“I was shocked, I didn’t think it was real at first and I never thought in my wildest dreams that I would know somebody who was in this situation.”
Lotzia said Sotloff’s father knew his son was missing but little more than that until he saw his son on his knees at the edge of a terrorist’s knife.
Steven Sotloff (Source: theepochtimes.com)
“As of right now, he knows his son is alive,” said Lotzia. “That’s why it’s so hard to see this happen to a guy who meant so much to us.”
Two South Florida Congresswomen also knew for months the secret of Sotloff’s disappearance and were quietly in action.
“I’ve been working for several months with the family and the State Department, with Mr. Sotloff’s family to try to do everything we can through the State Department, with the limited ability we have with a terrorist group,” said Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
She also told CBS4, “I’m pretty certain that given President Obama’s track record he will go after the people doing harm to Americans. We are dealing with sheer unadulterated evil and I’m sure the full weight of the U.S. government needs to and will be brought down on them.”
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said she’s also been involved.
“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 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.”
She also told CBS4 that “He’s an innocent reporter and this shows the brutality of the ISIS threat. They beheaded a journalist and say now that another man is next unless we stop the air strikes. What a tragic situation for the parents. I can’t imagine what they are going through. It just shows we need to end this terrorist threat. We need to eliminate ISIL. They are not going to stop in Syria and Jordan. They are going to strike here in America too.”
On Wednesday, President Barack Obama offered his sympathies to Foley’s family and spoke about the group that killed him and threatened Sotloff’s life.
“They have rampaged across cities and villages — killing innocent, unarmed civilians in cowardly acts of violence. They abduct women and children and subject them to torture and rape and slavery. They have murdered Muslims— both Sunni and Shia — by the thousands. They target Christians and religious minorities, driving them from their homes, murdering them when they can for no other reason than they practice a different religion. They declared their ambition to commit genocide against an ancient people.”
President Obama vowed that the U.S. would not sit idly by.
“The United States of America will continue to do what we must do to protect our people. We will be vigilant and we will be relentless. When people harm Americans, anywhere, we do what’s necessary to see that justice is done. And we act against ISIL, standing alongside others.”