Steven Sotloff, Miami Man in ISIS Video, Subject of White House Petition

A new White House petition is demanding the president take action to help a freelance journalist from Miami believed to have been captured by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham.

The petition asks President Barack Obama to "do everything possible" to save the life of Steven Sotloff, who is believed to have been kidnapped in 2013.

Sotloff is featured in a video released Tuesday that shows the beheading of a man believed to be freelance journalist James Wright Foley, who was kidnapped while reporting in Syria two years ago.

The video shows an apparent ISIS militant standing next to a man identified as Sotloff, saying he will suffer the same fate as Foley if Obama doesn't stop airstrikes in Iraq.

NBC 6’s Justin Finch has the story of a Miami journalist who was kidnapped and now his life is being threatened by the same group that beheaded an American journalist on Tuesday, ISIS.

On Wednesday, the National Security Council said the video showing Foley and Sotloff is authentic.

"The U.S. Intelligence Community has analyzed the recently released video showing U.S. citizens James Foley and Steven Sotloff," NSC spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said. We have reached the judgment that this video is authentic. We will continue to provide updates as they are available."
Sotloff, 31, grew up in Miami and had most recently lived in Pinecrest. NBC 6 has been unable to contact Sotloff's family.

NBC 6’s Keith Jones has some reaction from friends of South Florida journalist Steven Sotloff, who is featured in a video released Tuesday that shows the beheading of a man believed to be freelance journalist James Wright Foley.

"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," Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement Wednesday. "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."

Sen. Bill Nelson also released the following statement Wednesday:

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of the murdered journalist and those still held captive, including a reporter who grew up in my state,” Nelson said in a release. “The inhumane and brutal nature of this crime shows just how barbaric this group really is. Those who committed this atrocity must and will be brought to justice."

Sotloff's Twitter profile shows his last tweet was more than a year ago, on Aug. 3, 2013, about the Miami Heat. A few days before that, he tweeted that he had been in the city of Antakya, near the Turkish border.

"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.

Sotloff had attended the University of Central Florida, where he majored in journalism. UCF spokeswoman Zenaida Kotala told NBC 6 that records showed Sotloff attended the school from Fall 2002 to Fall 2004, but the school has no record of him earning a degree.

"This is an unspeakably terrible circumstance. We join so many others who hope for Steven's safe return," UCF spokesman Grant Heston said in a statement Wednesday.

Josh Polsky shared a dorm suite with Sotloff at UCF. Polsky said that even years later, and under difficult circumstances, Steve has helped bring his group of friends from school back together.

“We all have talked on the social media network and the phone,” Polsky said. “Everyone is in a different field and different professions at this point, but we’ve all kind of come together for the first time in quite a while because of personal tragedy and our connection to Steve.”

Another friend of Sotloff’s, Anat Benarie, said everyone is continuing to hold out hope for his friend to come back home.

“But, it is scary to think about what the potential outcome could be,” Benarie said. “Everybody wants to have hope. That’s the only thing you can really hold onto, right.”

That hope is unifying the friends again with Polsky saying they admire Steve for choosing to work in war torn areas.

“He went out there to find himself in his profession,” Polsky said. “He was doing what he believed in and really looking to help the world and report back as a freelance journalist.”

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