Mother to Islamic State: 'Please release my child'

(USA TODAY) -- The mother of a journalist held hostage by the Islamic State appealed to the leader of the militant group Wednesday, asking for her son's release.

In a video broadcast on Al Arabiya Network, Shirley Sotloff pleads with Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi to grant amnesty for her son, Steven Sotloff.

"Steven is a journalist who traveled to the Middle East to cover the suffering of Muslims at the hands of tyrants. Steven is a loyal and generous son, brother and grandson," Shirley Sotloff says. "He is an honorable man and has always tried to help the weak."

Sotloff appeared in a video last week that showed the beheading of freelance photographer James Foley as a revenge killing for U.S. military action in Iraq. In the video, the Islamic State says Sotloff faces the same fate if military action doesn't end.

In Wednesday's video, Shirley Sotloff calls on al-Baghdadi to follow Islamic teachings.

"Since Steven's capture, I've learned a lot about Islam. I've learned that Islam teaches that no individual should be held responsible for the sins of others," Shirley Sotloff says. "Steven has no control over the actions of the U.S. government. He's an innocent journalist."

Sotloff is a freelance journalist who has written for TIME magazine and other publications, including National Interest and Foreign Policy. He went missing in Syria in August 2013.

A Florida native, Sotloff grew up in Miami. He graduated from Kimball Union Academy in Meriden, N.H., where he received a journalism award, according to Manchester TV station WMUR. He went on to attend the University of Central Florida.

"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 says. "I ask you to please release my child. As a mother I ask for justice to be merciful and not punish my son for matters he has no control over."

Sotloff's appeal is rare — families have typically kept news of kidnappings quiet out of fear of attracting more attention and thereby giving the hostage-takers additional leverage.

The Islamic State wants more than $6 million to free another kidnapped American — a woman kidnapped a year ago while doing humanitarian work in Syria.

Citing concern for her safety in the wake of Foley's beheading, the 26-year-old woman's family and the State Department asked that she not be identified. She is the third American known to have been abducted in Syria by the Islamic State.

On Sunday, American freelance writer Peter Theo Curtis, 45, was freed after almost two years imprisoned by the al-Nusra Front, an affiliate of al-Qaeda in Syria that split with the Islamic State this year. The Qatari government helped negotiate his release on a humanitarian basis.

"When I was in prison I had no idea so much effort was being extended on my behalf and now having found out I am just so overwhelmed with emotion," Curtis said in a statement to reporters Wednesday.

Contributing: Michael Winter and Cogan Schneier


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