Friends of Captured Journalist Steven Sotloff Come Forward to Tell His Story

Sotloff was taken hostage on August 4, 2013 by ISIL, but his disappearance was subject to a media blackout until now.

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In the video showing the tragic murder of American journalist James Foley, another journalist, Steven Sotloff, appears alive at the very end. The executioner, identified as a London man known only as "John", who leads a British faction of ISIL in Syria, says, "The life of this American citizen, Obama, depends on your next decision," as he holds Sotloff by the neck.

Sotloff was taken hostage on August 4, 2013 by ISIL. His disappearance was subject to a "media blackout," for his safety and that of the other hostages, according to Lauren Sotloff's boyfriend, who also posted a link on his personal Facebook page to a White House Petition urging President Obama to "do everything possible to free American reporter Steven Sotloff from ISIS in Syria and save his life."

Emerson Lotzia, Sotloff's college roommate, has also offered a brief interview to CNN, "I've known Steve was missing for the past year -- the problem is, he was a low-profile freelance journalist -- his family didn't want anyone in the media talking about Steve because they were afraid of retaliation. If any old friends asked me about Steve over the past year, I'd just say I hadn't seen him in a long time."

Lotzia offered a bit of insight into Sotloff's hostage situation. This video is the "first time his dad and family have heard anything about Steve since last December." It is unclear when Sotloff and Foley began being held in captivity together. It is suspected that between the end of 2013 and early 2014, Foley was being held in an ISIL training camp, possibly in Northern Syria, though it is unknown if or when Sotloff joined him. This summer, a rescue mission was attempted by special forces to rescue the hostages, but failed, because the hostage were no longer there.
Sotloff attended the University of Central Florida where he studied to be a journalist. Ashley Burns, his editor at their college newspaper, told CNN, "He writes with incredible passion, about Benghazi and his experiences in Syria and Turkey, while showing an incredible relationship with -- and understanding of -- the people that he met in the countries that he has worked in. He has seen things I'll never see and his courage is incredible."

Grant J. Heston, Vice President for Communications and Marketing at University of Central Florida, told The Wire, "This is an unspeakably terrible circumstance. We join so many others who hope for Steven’s safe return."

A veteran FBI negotiator told The Wire that ISIL issued their threat against Sotloff's life in a way that is open to ransom negotiations, but not "a long discussion." The negotiator believes the price would be "well in excess of a million dollars."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.