The family of American journalist Steven Sotloff is aware that ISIS has released a video it claims shows his beheading and is "grieving privately," a spokesman says. The State Department says it is "sickened" and is trying to determine whether the video is genuine, reports the AP. Associates say the 31-year-old was well aware of the dangers in Syria but was determined to try to tell the world about the conflict's effect on ordinary people, Reuters notes. "I've been here over a week and no one wants freelance because of the kidnappings. It's pretty bad here," he emailed a colleague from northern Syria in late 2012. He was kidnapped soon after he returned to the country in August last year.
"He struck me as a very, very decent guy ... he wasn't chasing headlines, he wasn't hyping a pitch," says the editor of World Affairs, one of the publications that hired him for freelance work. Sotloff "is very brave and very imaginative and very sweet," Hudson Institute fellow Lee Smith tells the Wall Street Journal. Visiting Hudson Institute fellow Ann Marlowe, who worked with Sotloff in Libya in 2011, adds that every Muslim who knew Sotloff "is probably mortified and horrified that someone who really was a friend of the Muslim and Arab people has met his end this way." Sotloff "believed in the Arab Spring. He believed in democracy," she says. "He believed that Arabs and Muslims deserved the same opportunities we have in the West."