President Barack Obama said Wednesday that the killers of two American journalists will be brought to justice, and their barbaric acts will do nothing to intimidate the United States.
Terror group ISIS released a video Tuesday showing the apparent beheading of journalist Steven Sotloff. A day later, U.S. officials said the video is authentic.
The killing is the second beheading of an American journalist in two weeks, and the militant group said it’s a result of Obama’s decision to conduct airstrikes against it in Iraq.
In the video, Sotloff kneels in the desert, dressed in an orange prison-style jumpsuit. A masked "executioner" lords over him, wielding a knife.
The journalist speaks; the executioner speaks. Then the victim is beheaded. The video is similar to one released two weeks ago showing the death of another American journalist, James Foley.
In the video released Tuesday, a British hostage is shown after the beheading of Sotloff, just like the latter was shown in Foley’s video.
Obama said the United States "will not be intimidated" by the killers.
"Those who make the mistake of harming Americans will learn that we will not forget ... that our reach is long and that justice will be served," the President said.
He addressed his much-criticized statement last week that he has no strategy on ISIS. He said he was referring to a military strategy in Syria that "might" require congressional approval.
"Our objective is clear. That is to degrade and destroy (ISIS) so it’s no longer a threat," he said. "We can accomplish that. It’s going to take some time, it’s going to take some effort."
ISIS, or the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, refers to itself as the "Islamic State."
Obama said the world needs a regional strategy to defeat the group.
"We’ve been putting together a strategy that was designed to do a number of things. ... What we have to make sure is we have a regional strategy in place," he said.
In addition to the Americans’ deaths, the British hostage showed at the end of the latest video appears to be in danger.
British rescue attempt
The UK said its rescue attempt "some time ago" failed to free its citizen.
UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond provided scant details of the rescue attempt or any plans in the works.
"You wouldn’t expect me to discuss various options that we will be considering," he said. "But I can assure you that we will look at every possible option to protect this person."
Britain echoed the same sentiment as Obama.
"This country will never give into terrorism ... a country like ours will not be cowed by these barbaric killers," UK Prime Minister David Cameron said.
The latest video has eerie similarities to one released last month.
"It is almost the exact same choreography," said Peter Neumann, a professor at King’s College London, comparing the ISIS videos showing the deaths of journalists Sotloff and Foley. A video of Foley’s execution was released last month.
The executioner appears to be the same person, and the location of the two killings also appears to be similar. Neumann suspects they took place in or around the Syrian city of Raqqa, one of the safest areas for ISIS.
‘I’m back, Obama’
Sotloff’s executioner speaks in what sounds like the same British accent as the man who purportedly killed Foley.
He’s dressed identically in both videos, head to toe in black, with a face mask and combat boots. He appears to be of similar build and height. He waves a knife in his left hand, as did the militant in the video of Foley’s death.
And then, there are his actual words.
"I’m back, Obama, and I’m back because of your arrogant foreign policy towards the Islamic State," the executioner says in the second video. "Just as your missiles continue to strike our people, our knife will continue to strike the necks of your people."
The SITE Intelligence group says there’s no question the same masked fighter appears in both videos.
After Foley’s death, the British ambassador to the United States said that experts in his country were close to identifying the killer. He has not yet been named.
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