News Middle East

Monday 18 December 2017

Second hostage Steven Sotloff was a 'marked man'

A masked Islamic State militant speaks next to a man purported to be U.S. journalist Steven Sotloff
A masked Islamic State militant speaks next to a man purported to be U.S. journalist Steven Sotloff

The second American journalist threatened with beheading by Islamic terrorists may have been a "marked man" as soon as he crossed into Syria on the final trip that he planned to the war zone, according to a report.

Steven Sotloff (31), an experienced Middle East freelance journalist, disappeared within minutes of crossing the border from Turkey in August last year with a trusted Syrian "fixer", a local guide for foreign journalists.

It has been claimed Mr Sotloff's kidnappers knew their travel plans and had been waiting to seize them after his fixer's identity was allegedly made public on social media by a Canadian photographer.

Ben Taub, an American journalist who was one of the final people to see Mr Sotloff, suggests that Mr Sotloff was captured after his fixer "Karam" (not his real name) was identified to Islamic State militants because of postings on Facebook by the Canadian, who had planned to travel to Syria with him two days earlier.

Mr Taub said he discussed travel plans with Mr Sotloff in the Turkish border town of Kilis. He said Mr Sotloff asked him about Karam, a reputable fixer. Mr Taub said he told Mr Sotloff he believed Karam was being monitored because an inexperienced Canadian photographer had just revealed his own plans to work with him in Facebook messages to people in Syria.

Yves Choquette, a Montreal-based photographer, has now identified himself as Alex and said Mr Taub's account was "totally wrong" and he did not reveal Karam's details.

Meanwhile, James Foley may have volunteered to be murdered to spare the lives of fellow hostages, his family said, as it emerged that his kidnappers had emailed them last week to say they were about to "execute" him.

Mr Foley's younger brother Michael said he had "no doubt" the American journalist would have sacrificed himself, adding: "He's always been that way."

Michael (38), said: "[He] truly cares more about others than himself. I think he was probably the strongest and most prepared for it. God forbid there's others. But you can see just from the clips, from the video, he wasn't afraid.

"Jim was a hero."

Irish Independent

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