MIAMI (CBSMiami) – As a U.S. journalist Steven Sotloff’s reporting trips took him to Libya, Egypt, Bahrain, Somalia, and Turkey but he vanished last August while on assignment in the country that’s considered the most dangerous for journalists — Syria.
A video tweeted in 2012 by Steven Sotloff showed he was well aware of the risks. He said a Syrian jet “hunted” him outside the city of Aleppo.
Almost a year later, he had dinner with his friend, the filmmaker Matthew Vandyke. Sotloff was about to return to Syria.
“He was a little apprehensive about going. The kidnappings had started around that time, ISIS had just appeared a few months before. He knew that each time he went back, that it was getting more and more dangerous there,” said Vandyke.
The 31-year old Sotloff was a reporter much of his professional life. He was pepper sprayed by riot police and shot at by a sniper.
Even as he was filing dispatches from war zones, he found a way to keep up with his favorite sports teams in his hometown of Miami. His last tweet, one day before he was kidnapped, was about the Miami Heat signing center Greg Oden.
Sotloff grew up in the community of Pinecrest. As the oldest of two children, his mother, Shirley, taught preschool at the family’s synagogue.
“I remember him as a completely fun-loving beautiful spirit, really joyful, kind of goofy,” said journalist and friend Danielle Berrin.
As a teenager, Sotloff attended boarding school in New Hampshire, where he played rugby and football. He also discovered his passion while working on the student newspaper.
Sotloff studied journalism at the University of Central Florida. He eventually went to the Middle East.
“He was somebody who took time to learn the culture and ways of the region and he wasn’t just somebody who leapt from conflict zone to conflict zone,” said Vandyke.
Sotloff posted some Instagram photos of his visit to a Syrian refugee camp eight months before he vanished.
On Tuesday, friends and neighbors gathered at the Sotloff home to offer condolences. His family asked to be allowed to mourn their loss in private.
“The only reason we all know that Syria’s dangerous is because of guys like Steven and James Foley that went and told us that. Otherwise, we would have no idea what is going on in Syria,” said Vandyke.
Sotloff spoke Arabic and Hebrew and also had lived and studied in Israel and Wednesday morning it was revealed he holds dual Us-Israeli citizenship. It was a fact he and his family tried to keep hidden from his kidnappers.
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