Mother of American held by Islamic State pleads for his life

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In what is becoming an increasingly public negotiation over the fate of an American journalist, the mother of Steven J. Sotloff, who is being held by the militant group Islamic State, released a video Wednesday pleading for his release.

Shirley Sotloff appears in a professionally produced video and speaks directly to Abu Bakr Baghdadi, the self-appointed caliph of the Islamic State. The video ran on the Al Arabiya television network.

“As a mother, I ask your justice to be merciful and not punish my son for matters he has no control over,” she says. “I ask you to use your authority to spare his life and to follow the example set by the prophet Muhammad, who protected people of the book.”

Steven J. Sotloff, a freelance journalist captured more than a year ago, appeared at the end of a video released last week by the Islamic State that showed a militant killing another American journalist, James Foley. In the video, a black-hooded militant forces Mr. Sotloff to kneel, grabs his collar and declares, “The life of this American citizen, Obama, depends on your next decision.”

Authorities are attempting to track down the man in the video, who they say has an accent indicating that he is from London.

There had been a news blackout on Mr. Sotloff, but the video released last week initiated a flurry of interest in his case. Shirley Sotloff had not spoken much about his disappearance. In the new video, she is using the same medium as his captors to communicate. “I want what every mother wants: to live to see her children’s children,” she says. “I plead with you to grant me this.”

Video is one of the many methods that families and terrorist groups have used to communicate with each other and with the rest of the world, at times going around official government channels. The family of Mr. Foley, the journalist whose killing was reported last week, had started a Twitter hashtag, #FreeJamesFoley, and a website with the same name in an attempt to get their son back.

This week, according to the Guardian newspaper, the Islamic State started its own hashtag on Twitter, #StevensHeadinObamasHands, to draw attention to the fact that it still holds Mr. Sotloff and has threatened to kill him unless President Barack Obama stops military action against the Islamic State.

The Shirley Sotloff video was provided to The New York Times by lawyers for the family, said Bruce Headlam, managing editor for video with the news company. The publication verified that the Arabic subtitles were accurate and edited some slides into the video to provide context to what Ms. Sotloff was saying.

Also Wednesday, Peter Theo Curtis, 45, who was released Sunday from captivity in Syria, spoke briefly to reporters outside his mother’s home in Cambridge, Mass. Mr. Curtis was being held by al-Qaida-linked captors in Syria; his release was negotiated by the Qatari government. The negotiations over his release were done behind closed doors, he said.

“There have been literally hundreds of people — brave, determined and big-hearted people all over the world, working for my release,” he said. “They’ve been working two years on this. I had no idea when I was in prison — I had no idea that so much effort was being expended on my behalf.”

Mr. Curtis said he needed some time to bond with his mother and his family, but that he would talk to reporters and tell his story at a later date.

United States - North America - Barack Obama - Massachusetts - James Foley - Shirley


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