By Dave Clark, AFP
WASHINGTON–The mother of a U.S. hostage who has been threatened with death by jihadist militants of the Islamic State (IS) pleaded for his life on Wednesday amid mounting fears for American nationals captured in Syria. Last week’s murder of journalist James Foley by IS has focused attention on other American hostages, including 31-year-old freelancer Steven Sotloff. Another journalist, Peter Theo Curtis, returned home Tuesday after nearly two years in captivity, but U.S. media reported the Islamic State is still holding a 26-year-old female aid worker. The masked militant seen beheading Foley in a video released by the group also threatened to kill Sotloff unless U.S. President Barack Obama orders a halt to the air strikes against on IS-held territory. Mother’s Appeal for Mercy On Wednesday, Sotloff’s mother Shirley issued a video appeal in which she directly addressed IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, begging him to spare her son from the same grisly fate. “My son Steven is in your hands,” she said, looking tired and tense but controlled. “He is a journalist who made a journey to cover the story of Muslims suffering at the hands of tyrants.”
“As a mother, I ask your justice to be merciful and not punish my son for matters he has no control over.” A spokesman for the White House could not say whether the U.S. administration had advised the family for or against making the video appeal. “She obviously, as is evident from the video, feels desperate about the — about the safety and well-being of her son, and understandably so,” Josh Earnest said.
“And that is why our thoughts and prayers are with Mr. Sotloff’s family at this very difficult and trying time. “As you know, this administration is deeply engaged in doing everything we can to seek the return of every American who is currently being held in that region.” Sotloff disappeared while reporting in Syria in August 2013. His apparent kidnapping was not widely reported until he appeared on the video released last week by the Islamic State. “We have not seen Steven for over a year and we miss him very much. We want to see him home safe and sound and to hug him,” Shirley Sotloff said. “Since his capture, I have learned a lot about Islam. I’ve learned that Islam teaches that no individual should be held responsible for the sins of others,” she said.
“Steven has no control over the actions of the U.S. government. He’s an innocent journalist. I’ve always learned that you, the Caliph, can grant amnesty. I ask you to please release my child.
“I ask you to use your authority to spare his life and to follow the example set by the Prophet Mohammed.” The Islamic State, a jihadist militant group, has declared the stretch of territory it controls in eastern Syria and northern Iraq to be the heartland of a new caliphate and Baghdadi the leader of all Muslims. Other Hostages The appeal for Sotloff came as ABC News and other U.S. media reported that a 26-year-old female American aid worker is also being held by the Islamic State.