As reported yesterday, Islamic State extremists have released a video purportedly showing the beheading of a second American journalist, Steven Sotloff, who has been confirmed to be a Jewish freelance journalist.
Colleagues and acquaintances recalled Sotloff as a generous man fascinated by journalism and the changes gripping the Middle East, and determined to tell stories from the perspective of average people, not army movements on the battlefield.
A friend who was with Sotloff in captivity told Yediot Acharonot that Sotloff was Jewish – a fact he hid from his captors – and even managed to observe the Yom Kippur fast while in Islamic State captivity.
“He told them he was sick and doesn’t want to eat, even though we were served eggs that day,” the friend said. “He used to pray secretly in the direction of Jerusalem. He would see in which direction (his Muslim captors) were praying and then adjust the angle.”
Others recalled his professionalism: “He struck me as a very, very decent guy … he wasn’t chasing headlines, he wasn’t hyping a pitch,” said James Denton, publisher and editor of the Washington-based journal World Affairs, one of several publications that hired him for freelance work. Others included TIME and Foreign Policy.
“He wanted to get the story, he wanted to peel away the layers,” said Denton, who met Sotloff over coffee in Washington in May 2013, and published two of his dispatches from Cairo the following July.
Sotloff, a 31-year-old Miami-area native who freelanced for Time and Foreign Policy magazines, vanished in Syria in August 2013 and was not seen again until he appeared in a video released last month that showed Foley’s beheading.
Dressed in an orange jumpsuit against an arid Syrian landscape, Sotloff was threatened in that video with death unless the US stopped airstrikes on the Islamic State.
At Sotloff’s parents’ home in Pinecrest, Florida., two police vehicles blocked the driveway Tuesday, and officers advised journalists to stay away. Friends of the family could be seen coming and going.
“Everyone’s been concerned. Everyone is grieving,” neighbor Pepe Cazas said. “It’s terrible. I’ve been praying for him.”
Last week, Sotloff’s mother, Shirley Sotloff, pleaded with his captors for mercy, saying in a video that her son was “an innocent journalist” and “an honorable man” who “has always tried to help the weak.”
Sotloff grew up in the Miami area, and graduated from Kimball Union Academy, a prep school in New Hampshire.
As a student at Kimball, Sotloff “developed a passion for reporting and writing, a gift that he shared with people around the world, and this unthinkable act of terror has taken him from us far too soon,” New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan said in a statement.
Sotloff then attended the University of Central Florida, which said he majored in journalism from 2002 to 2004 but apparently left without graduating.
Read more at Ynet.