Steven Sotloff, Miami Journalist, Beheaded by ISIS, Group Says

The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham has beheaded a Miami journalist who was abducted in Syria last year, the jihadist monitoring organization SITE Intel Group said Tuesday.

Steven Sotloff, a freelance journalist who grew up in Miami, was killed by ISIS in a video that surfaced Tuesday, SITE Intel Group said. ISIS threatened to execute a British captive in the video, SITE Intel Group reported.

The United States said early Wednesday that they had analyzed the video and determined that it is authentic.

sotloff approved photo
SITE Intel Group
A still image from the video that shows the purported beheading of South Florida journalist Steven Sotloff.

Sotloff had been threatened in a video released last month that showed the beheading of another freelance journalist, James Wright Foley, who was also kidnapped while reporting in Syria.

Sotloff, 31, had attended the University of Central Florida, where he majored in journalism from 2002 to 2004. He left the university before earning a degree to pursue his career in journalism.

"Our UCF family mourns Steven's death, and we join millions of people around the world who are outraged at this despicable and unjustifiable act," said University of Central Florida President John C. Hitt.

The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham has beheaded a Miami journalist who was abducted in Syria last year, the jihadist monitoring organization SITE Intel Group said Tuesday. NBC 6’s Dan Krauth speaks with friends of South Florida journalist Steven Sotloff.

Before studying at UCF, Sotloff attended Kimball Union Academy, a New England prep school. There, he revived the student newspaper, "The Kimball Union," and received the Lawton Award for journalism at his high school graduation.

Aside from working on the student newspaper, he served on the student council, worked as an admissions tour guide, was an active member of the Kimball Union Fire Brigade, played football and Rugby and appeared in the musical "Cabaret."

"His courageous actions have and will always inspire our students and our community,” said Head of School Mike Schafer in a statement. “While the Kimball Union community mourns the terrible loss of Steven Sotloff, we proudly celebrate his important legacy and his deep commitment to making the world a better place. We send our deepest condolences to the Sotloff family.”

Sotloff's Twitter profile shows his last tweet was more than a year ago, on Aug. 3, 2013, about the Miami Heat.

"Stand-up philosopher from Miami. Currently in Libya. I've been published in TIME, National Interest, FP, CSM, The Diplomat, LWJ, & more," the Twitter profile reads.

Time Editor Nancy Gibbs sent her condolences to Sotloff's family and praised his work as a journalist.

"We are shocked and deeply saddened by reports of Steven Sotloff's death," she said in a statement. "Steven was a valued contributor to TIME and other news organizations, and he gave his life so readers would have access to information from some of the most dangerous places in the world. Our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family."

Last week, Sotloff's mother, Shirley, released a video pleading with ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi for the release of her son.

"We have not seen Steven for over a year, and we miss him very much," Shirley Sotloff said in the video message. "We want to see him home safe and sound and to hug him."

A family spokesman told NBC News that Sotloff's relatives are aware of the beheading video and that they are grieving.

A White House petition asking President Barack Obama to "do everything possible" to save Sotloff had received more than 11,000 signatures as of Tuesday.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott commented on the purported beheading, releasing the following statement.

"On behalf of Ann and myself, and on behalf of all the people of Florida, we want to convey our sorrow and our condolences to the entire Sotloff family," Scott said. "We cannot begin to understand their grief."

Scott called on President Barack Obama to respond to Sotloff's reported death, saying ISIS is an "evil" that "must be confronted and destroyed."

The governor cancelled rallies he had planned following the news of Sotloff's death. During a stop on his two-week bus tour, Scott asked supportedrs to give a moment of silence to Sotloff, according to the Associated Press.

Several other Florida politicians released statements condemning the terrorist group and giving their condolences to the Sotloff family.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said she sends prayers to the Sotloff's family, which lives in her congressional district.

"I cannot imagine coping with the pain Shirley and Art must be feeling right now as they lose a son due to a savage terrorist organization," she said.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz said South Florida is a tight-knit community and mourns the loss of one of its citizens.

"I am absolutely devastated at the reported murder of Steven Sotloff by the Islamic State," Wasserman Schultz said.

She and others like Sen. Bill Nelson called on the government to take action to stop ISIS.

"Let there be no doubt, we must go after ISIS right away because the U.S. is the only one that can put together a coalition to stop this group that’s intent on barbaric cruelty," Nelson said.

The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham has beheaded a Miami journalist who was abducted in Syria last year, the jihadist monitoring organization SITE Intel Group said Tuesday. NBC 6’s Willard Shepard has reaction from local politicians.
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