2 American journalists beheaded by ISIS in retaliation to air strikes in Iraq

by Evan Myers | staff writer

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has sent a violent message to the United States in a clear and direct act of terrorism. Militants have brutally murdered 2 American citizens and broadcasted their executions on the internet to display to the rest of the world.

The first of the graphic videos, which were quickly removed from Youtube but are still available on leaked websites, shows a kneeling man in an orange jumpsuit and a man cloaked in black holding a combat knife. The kneeling man was confirmed by the FBI to be American journalist James Foley, who disappeared in Syria back in 2012.  Foley gives a short address to the American people—which he evidently was being forced to read aloud—denouncing Obama’s recent order for air strikes in Iraq. When he was finished, the man cloaked in black then directly addresses the president in English, with what appears to be a British accent. He warns president Obama to discontinue his policy of aggression against the Islamic State, or they would continue to retaliate with violence. The man in black then walks behind Foley and uses the knife to slowly decapitate the American citizen. After some brief footage of the following carnage, the man in black holds a knife to the throat of a second American clad in an orange jumpsuit, identified as photojournalist Steven Sotloff, who disappeared in Syria in August 2013. Holding the weapon against Sotloff, the cloaked man addresses president Obama once more and tells him that the next move is his; if the air strikes against the Sunni Muslim extremists in northern Iraq continue, he threatens to kill Sotloff as well.

A week later, a second video was published by ISIS wherein Steven Sotloff was forced to give a similar forced diatribe directed to the American government before getting beheaded himself. Before his execution, Sotloff stated that he was “paying the price for American intervention.” The masked figure then states plainly to the camera: “Just as your missiles continue to strike our people, our knife will continue to strike the necks of your people.

These particular terrorism tactics are not fresh to ISIS; they have used similar methods of sending a warning to Kurdish fighters that back the U.S. in Iraq and Syria. ISIS has published videos showing the beheading of a Kurdish man, as well as videos showing off the execution of hundreds of Kurdish soldiers that ISIS had captured as well.

James Foley, 40, was a freelance photojournalist who had previously worked as a war correspondent in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya. Foley was familiar with facing the dangers that come along with his line of work; he had extensive experience covering critical events in war zones and other hazardous environments. Here is a video displaying some of Foley’s previous work covering numerous firefights, IED attacks and ambushes while he was overseas alongside American troops.

Shortly after the viral release of the video, Foley’s family honored James in a post on his support Facebook page they had created. “He was an extraordinary son, brother, journalist, and person,” Diane Foley said. “We implore the kidnappers to spare the lives of the remaining hostages. Like Jim, they are innocents. They have no control over American government policy in Iraq, Syria, or anywhere in the world.”

Steven Sotloff, 31, was a graduate of the University of Central Florida and throughout his career he had worked as a freelance writer for several publications including Time, Foreign Policy, World Affairs, and the Christian Science Monitor. Sotloff had traveled all over the world and gave his life exposing the injustices occurring throughout the Middle East. Sotloff’s Twitter account indicates that he had a playful demeanor and a good sense of humor, but he was fiercely dedicated to dispatching the truth to the public. Here is a sample of Sotloff’s writing in which he provided commentary on the Syrian Civil War and how it had affected some of the civilians residing in the areas near Aleppo.

Steven’s mother, Shirley Sotloff, had released a video pleading with the members of ISIS to release her son a week before his death. “Steven is a journalist who traveled to the Middle East to cover the suffering of Muslims at the hands of tyrants,” Shirley Sotloff said. “Steven is a loyal and generous son, brother, and grandson. He is an honorable man and has always tried to help the weak.”

It is actually not unusual that the executioner in the videos appears to have a British accent. Both American and British officials have determined that hundreds of British nationals and dozens of Americans have traveled to the middle east to aid and assist the ISIS on the battlefield. These numbers raise concern for the growing possibility of massive Islamic fundamentalist violence occurring on the home front. According to Sotloff’s family, government agencies had been attempting to find the journalist for months before the video was published, but President Obama’s response to ISIS is one of caution; In a white house press conference shortly after the publication of James Foley’s video president Obama said: “I don’t want to put the cart before the horse. We don’t have a strategy yet.” Not surprisingly, several members of Congress and members of the media are demanding the president to take action against the international terrorist group now that 2 American citizens have been murdered in cold blood.

Diane Foley, James’ mother, said that her son gave his life to expose the suffering of the Syrian people. James Foley himself once said in an interview with Medill University lecturer Tim McNulty, “’Conflict journalism’ is very important. … We need to know that most of the world is a dictatorship,” Foley said. “Most of the world, you cannot speak your mind. Most of the world, there’s no due process. Being away from the U.S. for a long time in these places, it really got knocked into me this time, man. We live in a pretty good place.” Without reporters like James Foley and Steven Sotloff, Americans would not be able to remain informed on the events taking place on the other side of the world and would have no way of understanding the many crucial moments that shape the future of our world. In the fight for freedom for the oppressed, James Foley and Steven Sotloff’s sacrifice will not be forgotten.

My prayers go out to the families of the victims and the countless innocents that are still in harm’s way.

Stay safe, stay awake.