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US hostage’s mother appeals to “Caliph”

In this image made from video obtained on Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014, Shirley Sotloff, who lives in Florida, appeals to the captors of her son, freelance journalist Steven Sotloff, 31, who was last seen in Syria in August 2013.

In this image made from video obtained on Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014, Shirley Sotloff, who lives in Florida, appeals to the captors of her son, freelance journalist Steven Sotloff, 31, who was last seen in Syria in August 2013.  

The mother of a U.S. journalist who was captured in Syria last year and was shown alive in a gruesome video of the beheading of another American scribe, James Foley, has sent a direct plea to the head of the militant group holding him, asking for mercy towards her son.

In a short video clip released on Wednesday Shirley Sotloff appealed for the release of her son Steven, who disappeared in Aleppo last August, saying, “I'm sending this message to you, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi ... the caliph of the Islamic State… As a mother, I ask your justice to be merciful and not punish my son for matters he has no control over.”

Her reference to the “Caliph,” raised eyebrows here for the apparent sense of legitimacy it conveyed to the intentions of IS, the group that has overrun vast swathes of Syria and Iraq, to establish a wide-ranging Islamic caliphate in the region under strict Sharia laws.

Yet her appeal comes at a time when Mr. Sotloff may be in danger of being executed by IS as Mr. Foley was, given that the militant who beheaded Mr. Foley threatened in the same video that Mr. Sotloff’s fate depended on U.S. President Barack Obama’s “next move,” towards halting airstrikes against IS in Iraq.

However the U.S. has persisted with a growing number of airstrikes in the aftermath of the release of that video, bringing to 101 the total number of attacks undertaken by Wednesday, according to a Pentagon statement.

This week there was further speculation that Mr. Obama may be contemplating expanding the air attacks into Syria too, with unnamed U.S. officials quoted in media reports suggesting that the President had authorised reconnaissance flights over Syria that were seen as “a forerunner of possible U.S. airstrikes there against IS.”

Notwithstanding the continuation of the U.S. attacks, Ms. Sotloff sought to build the case for IS mercy towards her son, saying, “Steven is a journalist who travelled to the Middle East to cover the suffering of Muslims at the hands of tyrants… He's an honourable man and has always tried to help the weak.”

She added that the Sotloff family had not seen their son for over a year, and “Since Stephen's capture, I've learned a lot about Islam. I've learned that Islam teaches that no individual should be held responsible for the sins of others.”

She also emphasised that as an innocent journalist Mr. Sotloff had no control over the actions of the U.S. government, and she believed, “You, the caliph, can grant amnesty... I ask you to use your authority to spare his life and to follow the example set by the Prophet Mohammed, who protected People of the Book.”

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Printable version | Jun 6, 2020 1:38:19 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/world/us-hostages-mother-shirley-sotloff-appeals-to-caliph/article6360913.ece

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