Secretary of State John Kerry has vowed that the U.S. would hold accountable those who murdered their citizens, “no matter how long it takes,” a reference to nationwide condemnation of the apparent beheading of Steven Sotloff, the second American journalist to be killed this way by Islamic State, the militant group controlling large parts of Syria and Iraq.
Speaking on Wednesday, after National Security Council Spokesperson Caitlin Hayden confirmed as “authentic” the video published by IS showing the beheading of Mr. Sotloff, Mr. Kerry said that the “unfathomable brutality of ISIL terrorist murderers,” reflected the group’s “medieval savagery by a coward hiding behind a mask.”
His comments came even as Israeli Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Paul Hirschson revealed via social media that Mr. Sotloff had dual nationality with Israel, saying in a tweet: “Cleared for publication: Steven Sotloff was #Israel citizen RIP.”
According to reports Mr. Sotloff managed to hide his Israeli nationality from his captors despite reportedly fasting during the Yom Kippur religious festival.
Praising Mr. Sotloff for being a driven and courageous journalist who reported from Syria, Libya, and Egypt, Mr. Kerry said his reporting was as empathetic as his killers were evil.
In what was likely to be a reference to the ultimately failed efforts of the U.S. to rescue Mr. Sotloff and another beheaded journalist, James Foley, the Secretary said, “For so many who worked so long to bring Steven and the other Americans home safely, this was not how the story should've ended. It's a punch to the gut.”
Emphasising that the U.S. government had tried every military, diplomatic, and intelligence tool it had, he said that special operations forces had “bravely risked a military operation to save these lives,” and American diplomats had reached out “to everyone and anyone who might be able to help.”
A U.S. woman, believed to be a 26-year-old aid worker, is apparently still in the clutches of IS, although media organisations have committed to keeping her name out of publication out of concerns for her safety.
A British hostage, David Haines, might also be held by IS militants, although some U.S. officials have said on background that they believe he too may have already been killed.
Reflecting on the violence inflicted by IS Mr. Kerry said, “Barbarity, sadly, isn't new to our world. Neither is evil. We've taken the fight to it before, and we're taking the fight to it today.”