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Kimball Union mourns murder of alum by militant group

From Correspondent and Wire Reports
September 02. 2014 7:56PM

The Kimball Union Academy community is mourning the loss of 2002 alum Steven Sotloff. (Courtesy)

The Islamic State militant group released a video on Tuesday purporting to show the beheading of a second American hostage with New Hampshire ties, journalist Steven Sotloff.

A statement released by Sotloff’s family through a spokesman indicated the family considered the video to be authentic.

“The family knows of this horrific tragedy and is grieving privately. There will be no public comment from the family during this difficult time,” family spokesman Barak Barfi said.

The purported executioner appeared to be the same British-accented man who appeared in an Aug. 19 video showing the killing of New-Hampshire based journalist James Foley, and it showed a similar desert setting. In both videos, the captives wore orange jumpsuits.

“We pray for the soul of Steve Sotloff and for his family and friends,” a statement posted Tuesday on the Free James Foley Facebook page said.

Foley, whose family lives in Rochester, was kidnapped in Syria two years ago. He had previously been held captive for 44 days in Libya in 2011.

Congresswoman Annie Kuster, D-N.H., released the following statement regarding Sotloff's death:

"I cannot begin to express the grief and heartbreak that I feel regarding the brutal murder of Steven Sotloff. Steven was a brave and innocent journalist who was callously executed by a group of purely evil terrorists. We must not rest until ISIL is brought to justice and the memories of Steven Sotloff and James Foley are properly honored.”

Sotloff, a 31-year-old freelance journalist from Florida, was kidnapped in Syria in August 2013.

“I’m back, Obama, and I’m back because of your arrogant foreign policy toward the Islamic State, because of your insistence on continuing your bombings and in Amerli, Zumar and the Mosul Dam, despite our serious warnings,” the masked man said in the video, addressing President Barack Obama. “So just as your missiles continue to strike our people, our knife will continue to strike the necks of your people.”

In the video, Sotloff describes himself as “paying the price” with his life for the U.S. intervention in Iraq.

Sotloff’s mother, Shirley, appealed last Wednesday in a videotaped message to Islamic State’s self-proclaimed caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, appealing for her son’s release.

Kimball Union mourns

The Kimball Union Academy community is mourning the death of Sotloff, who graduated from the New Hampshire prep school in 2002. The Florida native came to the school in the Plainfield village of Meriden in 2000 as a high school sophomore.

“His courageous actions have and will always inspire our students and our community,” Head of School Mike Schafer said on Tuesday. “While the Kimball Union community mourns the terrible loss of Steven Sotloff, we proudly celebrate his important legacy and his deep commitment to making the world a better place. We send our deepest condolences to the Sotloff family.”

“He was an active and involved student whose interest in journalism was evident early on,” the school said.

He is remembered for revitalizing the student newspaper, The Kimball Union, and was recognized for his efforts with the Lawton Award for Journalism at graduation.

He also served as a student council representative, admissions tour guide, and active member of the Kimball Union Fire Brigade. He played on varsity football and rugby teams and appeared in a school production of the musical “Cabaret.”

The school community remembers him as a loyal and connected alumnus, serving as his class reporter since he graduated and keeping in close touch with Kimball Union, his teachers and his classmates.

In 2011, Sotloff shared his experiences as a journalist in Libya working for a multi-national news agency with the school through the Kimball Union Magazine.

Sotloff also returned to campus to share some of his experiences at Kimball Union’s biennial Global Fair in April 2012 with a presentation on the causes and outcomes of the 2011 Arab Spring and the roles that culture and religion played in the uprisings.

“... He was often under fire, in hiding or on the move. He detailed the destruction, chaos and suffering he was observing. It was important to him that Kimball Union students were exposed to world issues like the Arab Spring,” the school’s statement said.

“Steven was dedicated to putting a human face on the sufferings and hardships in some of the world’s most challenging conflict zones. His work became a humanitarian mission that helped others gain a more accurate and realistic global perspective on issues in the Middle East.”

“Barbaric murder”

U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-NH, expressed her sympathy to Sotloff’s family in a written statement Tuesday afternoon.

“These despicable acts further underscore the threat that ISIS represents to not only Americans, but also to people of all faiths and nationalities who stand against ISIS’ depraved and oppressive ideology,” Ayotte said. “ISIS’ barbaric murder of Americans must not go unanswered, and the President must produce a strategy without delay to defeat ISIS.”

U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, decried Sotloff’s killing.

“The brutal murder of Steven Sotloff by ISIL militants is yet another abhorrent act of terrorism and a tragedy for those who knew and loved Steven,” Shaheen said in a statement. “Steven was an innocent journalist whose life was horrifically taken in another cowardly act of terrorism that sadly emphasizes the growing threat of ISIL to the region, Americans abroad and the world. ISIL must be stopped, and we must use every tool at our disposal, short of introducing ground forces in combat roles, to put an end to the threat they pose to our national security.”

Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter said her “thoughts and prayers are with journalist Steven Sotloff’s family and friends at this terrible time.”

“Nations must work together to stop the evil of ISIL,” Shea-Porter said in a statement.

Sotloff’s colleagues described him as a dedicated journalist and gifted writer who had filed in-depth reports from across the Middle East. He covered unrest in Libya for Time magazine in 2012 before his kidnapping in Syria.

Time Editor Nancy Gibbs said that Sotloff “gave his life so readers would have access to information from some of the most dangerous places in the world.”

Criminal investigation

A U.S. government source told Reuters that a criminal investigation being conducted by the Justice Department into the killing of Foley was certain to be extended to include Sotloff.

In the video it released last month, Islamic State said Foley’s death was in retaliation for U.S. air strikes on its insurgents who have overrun wide areas of northern Iraq. The United States resumed air strikes in Iraq in August for the first time since the withdrawal of the final U.S. troops from the country in 2011.

The raids followed major gains by Islamic State, which has declared an Islamic Caliphate in areas it controls in Syria and Iraq.

“We have seen a video that purports to be the murder of U.S. citizen Steven Sotloff by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. The intelligence community is working as quickly as possible to determine its authenticity,” White House National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said in a statement.

“If genuine, we are appalled by the brutal murder of an innocent American journalist and we express our deepest condolences to his family and friends. We will provide more information when it is available.”

A masked figure in the video seen by Reuters also issued a threat against a British hostage, a man the group named as David Haines, and warned governments to back off “this evil alliance of America against the Islamic State.”

On Aug. 24, al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front militants in Syria freed an American writer, Peter Theo Curtis, who had been missing since 2012, following what officials said were efforts by the Gulf Arab state of Qatar to secure his release.

Union Leader Correspondent Meghan Pierce and Reuters contributed to this report.

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