Steven Sotloff: The kidnapped journalist no one knew about

Steven Sotloff: The Kidnapped Journalist No One Knew About
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.

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.