Mother of Kidnapped Journalist Sotloff Pleads to Baghdadi for Son’s Life

Shirley Sotloff, mother of Steven Sotloff, issues a plea to the Islamic State to free her son.

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Shirley Sotloff, mother of Steven Sotloff, issues a plea to the Islamic State to free her son.

As the fate of kidnapped Americans complicates the U.S. fight against the Islamic State, Shirley Sotloff tells its leader her son is an innocent. By Kevin Baron

The mother of American journalist Steven Sotloff issued a somber plea to the Islamic State to spare his life, as U.S. airstrikes continue to defy the terrorist group’s warnings they would kill Sotloff next.

“I’m sending this message to you, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi al-Qureshi Al-Husseini, the caliph of the Islamic State. I am Shirley Sotloff. My son Steven is in your hands,” she said in a video released to reporters, speaking slowly and soberly.

“I have learned that Islam teaches that no individual should be held responsible for the sins of others. Steven has no control over the actions of the U.S. government. He’s an innocent journalist.” 

Islamic State fighters beheaded American journalist Jim Foley last week and in a video the group said that Sotloff would be killed next if President Barack Obama did not cease U.S. air strikes. But after Obama eulogized Foley on Thursday, within one hour U.S. Central Command announced a series of additional strikes against the group in Iraq, and the Pentagon has not let up since. The U.S. attacked Islamic State fighter positions to help Kurdish and Iraqi forces retake control of the Mosul Dam.

Pentagon press secretary Read Adm. John Kirby revealed last week that U.S. special operations forces attempted to rescue a group of American hostages earlier this summer, but the hostages were not at the targeted location in Syria.

Since then, American journalist Peter Theo Curtis was freed from his captivity and has returned home to Boston. The Washington Post detailed the circumstances leading to Curtis’ release, including he involvement of David Bradley, the owner and chairman of Atlantic Media, parent company of Defense One. Curtis was held by al-Nusra, however, and not the Islamic State.

As the hostage standoff has moved out of the shadows and critics call for the United States to reconsider its policy of refusing to pay ransoms, U.S. airstrikes continued on Wednesday as three strikes destroyed “an ISIL Humvee, a supply truck, three armored vehicles, and severely damaged an ISIL building,” according to a CENTCOM release.

The full text of Shirley Sotloff’s message is below:

I’m sending this message to you, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi al-Qureshi Al-Husseini, the caliph of the Islamic State. I am Shirley Sotloff. My son Steven is in your hands.

Steven is a journalist who traveled to the Middle East to cover the suffering of Muslims at the hands of tyrants. Steven is a loyal and generous son, brother, and grandson. He’s an honorable man and has always tried to help the weak. We have not seen Steven for over a year, and we miss him very much. We want to see him home safe and sound, and to hug him.

Since Steven’s capture, I have learned a lot about Islam. I have learned that Islam teaches that no individual should be held responsible for the sins of others. Steven has no control over the actions of the U.S. government. He’s an innocent journalist.

I’ve always learned that you, the caliph, can grant amnesty. I ask you to please release my child. As a mother, I ask your justice to be merciful, and not punish my son for matters he has no control over.

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. I want what every mother wants: to live to see her children’s children. I plead with you to grant me this.

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