Steven Sotloff: The kidnapped journalist no one knew about

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Steven Sotloff: The Kidnapped Journalist No One Knew About


Steven Sotloff went from the journalist whose disappearance went virtually uncovered to the man who's now the focus of American media coverage of ISIS.

Sotloff, an accomplished freelance journalist with extensive experience covering tensions in the Middle East, disappeared in August 2013 near the Syrian-Turkish border as he tried to cover the Syrian conflict and the growing threat of the Islamic militants. He appeared in an ISIS video released earlier this week showing the beheading of another journalist, James Foley, in which ISIS said Sotloff was next if the U.S. didn't stop airstrikes against the militants in Iraq.

Family friends say Sotloff's family has suffered silently since he disappeared, not knowing if he was alive until that video was released that signaled his death may be imminent.

"He's still alive, so there's nothing to say," his mother told WFOR.

Steven Sotloff: The kidnapped journalist no one knew about
ROCHESTER, NH - AUGUST 24: People attend a special mass in remembrance of journalist James Foley at Our Lady of the Rosary Church for August 24, 2014 in Rochester, New Hampshire. Foley was recently executed by ISIS Islamic militants in Syria, with the militants reportedly saying it was is retaliation for U.S. airstrikes In Iraq. (Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images)
ROCHESTER, NH - AUGUST 24: People attend a special mass in remembrance of journalist James Foley at Our Lady of the Rosary Church for August 24, 2014 in Rochester, New Hampshire. Foley was recently executed by ISIS Islamic militants in Syria, with the militants reportedly saying it was is retaliation for U.S. airstrikes In Iraq. (Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images)
Parishioners wait to greet the family of James Foley after a Catholic mass at Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Parish August 24, 2014 in Rochester, New Hampshire. The family and friends of murdered US journalist James Foley attended the memorial mass, offering prayers for the safety of his fellow hostages in Syria.  AFP PHOTO/DOMINICK REUTER (Photo credit should read DOMINICK REUTER/AFP/Getty Images)
A parishioner holds a prayer card in memory of James Foley after a Catholic mass at Our Lady of the Holy Rosary parish August 24, 2014, in Rochester, New Hampshire. The family and friends of murdered US journalist James Foley attended the memorial mass and offered prayers for the safety of his fellow hostages in Syria. AFP PHOTO/DOMINICK REUTER (Photo credit should read DOMINICK REUTER/AFP/Getty Images)
Diane and John Foley, parents of James Foley, address the congregation during a Catholic mass at Our Lady of the Holy Rosary parish August 24, 2014, in Rochester, New Hampshire. The family and friends of murdered US journalist James Foley attended the memorial mass and offered prayers for the safety of his fellow hostages in Syria. AFP PHOTO/DOMINICK REUTER (Photo credit should read DOMINICK REUTER/AFP/Getty Images)
A parishioner walks past a display of photos of James Foley before a Catholic mass at Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Parish August 24, 2014 in Rochester, New Hampshire. The family and friends of murdered US journalist James Foley are attending the memorial mass and offering prayers for the safety of his fellow hostages in Syria.  AFP PHOTO/DOMINICK REUTER (Photo credit should read DOMINICK REUTER/AFP/Getty Images)
Parishioners walk past a display of photos of James Foley before a Catholic mass at Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Parish August 24, 2014 in Rochester, New Hampshire. The family and friends of murdered US journalist James Foley are attending the memorial mass and offering prayers for the safety of his fellow hostages in Syria.  AFP PHOTO/DOMINICK REUTER (Photo credit should read DOMINICK REUTER/AFP/Getty Images)
John Foley, father of James Foley, greets supporters after a Catholic mass at Our Lady of the Holy Rosary parish August 24, 2014, in Rochester, New Hampshire. The memorial service was held for James Foley, a US journalist beheaded by Islamic State fighters after he was kidnapped in Syria in November. AFP PHOTO/DOMINICK REUTER (Photo credit should read DOMINICK REUTER/AFP/Getty Images)
John Foley, father of James Foley, greets supporters after a Catholic mass at Our Lady of the Holy Rosary parish August 24, 2014, in Rochester, New Hampshire. The memorial service was held for James Foley, a US journalist beheaded by Islamic State fighters after he was kidnapped in Syria in November .AFP PHOTO/DOMINICK REUTER (Photo credit should read DOMINICK REUTER/AFP/Getty Images)
ROCHESTER, NH - AUGUST 24: People leave the Our Lady of the Rosary Church after a special mass in remembrance of James Foley for August 24, 2014 in Rochester, New Hampshire. Foley was recently executed by ISIS Islamic militants in Syria, with the militants reportedly saying it was is retaliation for U.S. airstrikes In Iraq. (Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images)
ROCHESTER, NH - AUGUST 24: Diane Foley receives a hug following a special mass in remembrance of her son James Foley at Our Lady of the Rosary Church for August 24, 2014 in Rochester, New Hampshire. Foley was recently executed by ISIS Islamic militants in Syria, with the militants reportedly saying it was is retaliation for U.S. airstrikes In Iraq. (Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images)
ROCHESTER, NH - AUGUST 24: People leave the Our Lady of the Rosary Church after a special mass in remembrance of James Foley for August 24, 2014 in Rochester, New Hampshire. Foley was recently executed by ISIS Islamic militants in Syria, with the militants reportedly saying it was is retaliation for U.S. airstrikes In Iraq. (Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images)
Diane and John Foley, parents of journalilst James Foley, sit for a portrait at their home during an interview August 24, 2014, in Rochester, New Hampshire. A memorial service will be held later August 24 for Foley, a US journalist beheaded by Islamic State fighters after he was kidnapped in Syria in November. AFP PHOTO/DOMINICK REUTER (Photo credit should read DOMINICK REUTER/AFP/Getty Images)
ROCHESTER, NH - AUGUST 24: People leave the Our Lady of the Rosary Church after a special mass in remembrance of James Foley August 24, 2014 in Rochester, New Hampshire. Journalist James Foley was recently executed by Islamic militants. (Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images)
ROCHESTER, NH - AUGUST 24: John (2nd L) and Diane Foley (2nd R) greet people following a special mass in remembrance of their son James Foley at Our Lady of the Rosary Church for August 24, 2014 in Rochester, New Hampshire. Foley was recently executed by ISIS Islamic militants in Syria, with the militants reportedly saying it was is retaliation for U.S. airstrikes In Iraq. (Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images)
EDGARTOWN, MA - AUGUST 20: (AFP OUT) U.S. President Barack Obama makes a statement about the execution of American journalist James Foley by ISIS terrorists in Iraq during a press briefing at the press filing center at the Edgartown School August 20, 2014 in Edgartown, Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts. A video released shows an ISIS militant beheading Foley in what is believed to be retaliation for U.S. airstrikes in Iraq. The militant then threatens the life of another American hostage, Steven Sotloff, who is also missing. (Photo by Rick Friedman-Pool/Getty Images)
Diane Foley, mother of James Foley, pauses for a moment during an interview at her home August 24, 2014, in Rochester, New Hampshire. A memorial service will be held later August 24 for Foley, a US journalist beheaded by Islamic State fighters after he was kidnapped in Syria in November. AFP PHOTO/DOMINICK REUTER (Photo credit should read DOMINICK REUTER/AFP/Getty Images)
ROCHESTER, NH - AUGUST 24: A picture stands at Our Lady of the Rosary Church for a special mass in remembrance of journalist James Foley August 24, 2014 in Rochester, New Hampshire. Foley was recently executed by ISIS Islamic militants in Syria, with the militants reportedly saying it was is retaliation for U.S. airstrikes In Iraq. (Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images)
FILE - This undated file still image from video released April 7, 2011, by GlobalPost, shows James Foley of Rochester, N.H., a freelance contributor for GlobalPost, in Benghazi, Libya. A Libyan government spokesman says four journalists detained since early April have completed an administrative hearing and will be released Tuesday or Wednesday.(AP Photo/GlobalPost, File)
Diane and John Foley talk to reporters after speaking with U.S. President Barack Obama Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014 outside their home in Rochester, N.H. Their son, James Foley was abducted in November 2012 while covering the Syrian conflict. Islamic militants posted a video showing his murder on Tuesday and said they killed him because the U.S. had launched airstrikes in northern Iraq. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
FILE - In this May 27, 2011 file photo American Journalist James Foley, of Rochester, N.H., poses for a photo in Boston. The parents of Foley, kidnapped in Syria more than four months ago, said Thursday April 4, 2013 that his latest disappearance is more upsetting than an earlier one in Libya because they don’t know who is holding him. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)
ROCHESTER, NH - AUGUST 24: People attend a special mass in remembrance of journalist James Foley at Our Lady of the Rosary Church for August 24, 2014 in Rochester, New Hampshire. Foley was recently executed by ISIS Islamic militants in Syria, with the militants reportedly saying it was is retaliation for U.S. airstrikes In Iraq. (Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images)
ROCHESTER, NH - AUGUST 24: People attend a special mass in remembrance of journalist James Foley at Our Lady of the Rosary Church for August 24, 2014 in Rochester, New Hampshire. Foley was recently executed by ISIS Islamic militants in Syria, with the militants reportedly saying it was is retaliation for U.S. airstrikes In Iraq. (Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images)
After speaking with U.S. President Barack Obama by phone, John and Diane Foley talk to reporters, Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014, outside their home in Rochester, N.H. Their son James Foley was abducted in November 2012 while covering the Syrian conflict. Islamic militants posted a video showing his murder on Tuesday and said they killed him because the U.S. had launched airstrikes in northern Iraq. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
Family friends listen as Diane and John Foley talk to reporters Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014, outside their home in Rochester, N.H., after speaking with President Obama. There son, James Foley was abducted in November 2012 while covering the Syrian conflict. Islamic militants posted a video showing his murder on Tuesday and said they killed him because the U.S. had launched airstrikes in northern Iraq. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
President Barack Obama pauses as he speak in Edgartown, Mass., Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014, about the killing of American journalist James Foley by militants with the Islamic State extremist group. The president said the US will continue to confront Islamic State extremists despite the brutal murder of journalist James Foley. Obama said the entire world is "appalled" by Foley's killing. The president says he spoke Wednesday with Foley's family and offered condolences. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
ROCHESTER, NH - AUGUST 24: Pictures stand at Our Lady of the Rosary Church for a special mass in remembrance of journalist James Foley August 24, 2014 in Rochester, New Hampshire. Foley was recently executed by ISIS Islamic militants in Syria, with the militants reportedly saying it was is retaliation for U.S. airstrikes In Iraq. (Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images)
ROCHESTER, NH - AUGUST 24: People enter Our Lady of the Rosary Church for a special mass in remembrance of journalist James Foley August 24, 2014 in Rochester, New Hampshire. Foley was recently executed by ISIS Islamic militants in Syria, with the militants reportedly saying it was is retaliation for U.S. airstrikes In Iraq. (Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images)
John and Diane Foley talk to reporters after speaking with U.S. President Barack Obama Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014 outside their home in Rochester, N.H. Their son, James Foley was abducted in November 2012 while covering the Syrian conflict. Islamic militants posted a video showing his murder on Tuesday and said they killed him because the U.S. had launched airstrikes in northern Iraq. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
Diane and John Foley talk to reporters after speaking with U.S. President Barack Obama Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014 outside their home in Rochester, N.H. Their son, James Foley was abducted in November 2012 while covering the Syrian conflict. Islamic militants posted a video showing his murder on Tuesday and said they killed him because the U.S. had launched airs trikes in northern Iraq. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
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Sotloff's parents live in the Pinecrest suburb of Miami, and local reporters say police have staked out the home to guard the family's wishes for privacy.

The family's silence and general lack of media coverage until this point appears to be deliberate, and local politicians have confirmed they've been working with Sotloff's family and the U.S. State Department to secure his release for several months.

"Everyone is very scared right now," Sotloff's college roommate Emerson Lotzia told WTVJ earlier this week. "No one really knows what to think of this situation because we never really thought that we would have one of our friends in this situation."

While Sotloff's one-time roommate was willing to give interviews to local media earlier in the week, by Thursday night he began declining interviews at the request of Sotloff's family, according to USAToday. It's not hard to see why.

ISIS' brutality has been well-documented since the militant group swept through northern Iraq early this summer in a blitz offensive. The group took both U.S.-supplied military equipment from the Iraqi Army and money from banks.

A contributor for The Daily Beast says he sat down for a drink with Sotloff just days before the journalist disappeared. He was concerned because sources indicated another Canadian journalist new to war coverage wasn't being careful.

Ben Taub writes militants were watching the Canadian journalist and a fixer paid to get him into Syria to cover the conflict. While Taub says he convinced the Canadian journalist to leave the country, Sotloff later used the same fixer and was kidnapped.

Several media outlets now report ISIS demanded a $130 million ransom for the return of Foley. The U.S. military says it conducted a rescue operation that resulted in a gunfight with militants, but the rescue team determined Foley and Sotloff were not in the location they targeted.
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