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Islamic State: Slain hostage was no innocent – he was a Jew

Jihadists publish letter they say was written by captive journalist Steven Sotloff before he was beheaded

Marissa Newman is The Times of Israel political correspondent.

File photo dated June 02, 2011 courtesy Etienne de Malglaive shows American journalist Steven Sotloff (center with dark helmet) talking to Libyan rebels on Al Dafniya front line, 25 km west of Misrata. (Photo credit:AFP PHOTO HANDOUT- © ETIENNE DE MALGLAIVE)
File photo dated June 02, 2011 courtesy Etienne de Malglaive shows American journalist Steven Sotloff (center with dark helmet) talking to Libyan rebels on Al Dafniya front line, 25 km west of Misrata. (Photo credit:AFP PHOTO HANDOUT- © ETIENNE DE MALGLAIVE)

A letter purportedly penned by slain journalist Steven Sotloff days before his murder was published in an Islamic State publication on Tuesday, as the jihadists addressed the hostage’s Jewish identity for the first time.

The magazine also features a behind-the-scenes account allegedly written by captive John Cantlie, who claimed that the pro-Islamic State propaganda videos in which he appears were not scripted, and condemned the British and US government for refusing to negotiate with the jihadists.

“The case of Steven Sotloff contains a direct refutation against those who portray Western journalism and humanitarian aid as purely innocent, for this man was a Jew and a citizen of the Jewish state,” a statement in the Dabiq magazine said.

“So let the weak-hearted and sick-hearted wake up before defending these ‘innocent civilians,'” it added.

In the letter attributed to Sotloff, but whose contents seem to have been dictated to him by Islamic State militants, the journalist pleads with his mother to pressure the US government to halt its strikes. The letter asserts that the jihadists were aware he was a journalist.

“Mom, please don’t let Obama kill me. Do not let him get away with murder again. What doesn’t our government understand? Don’t get involved in the Islamic State’s internal and external affairs. Leave them to fight their own war,” it said.

“Mom, you can still save my life, just like the families of my previous cellmates who I’m sure you’ve met. Pressure our government to not involve themselves in the affairs of these people. At the rate that Obama’s administration is going, this could very well be the last you hear from me. Please don’t let that be the case. Fight for me. I love you.”

The article also mentioned the operation undertaken by Sotloff’s friends to scrub the internet of any connection to his Jewish heritage once he was taken captive in an effort to prevent his captors from finding out about his background.

“It is not surprising then to know that dozens of specialists were employed to hide his Jewish identity from the world prior to his execution. This intelligence operation was done in coordination with the Jewish state and media,” it said.

The story referenced publications that the Jewish journalist worked for, including The Jerusalem Post and The Jerusalem Report, and featured a scan of his Israeli identification card.

Sotloff was beheaded in a video published on September 2. His captors did not appear to know of his Jewish identity and Israeli citizenship at the time.

The column allegedly written by John Cantlie, who is also being held by IS, entitled “Hard Talk: The Real Story Behind My Videos,” denies that the videos in which he appears have been written for him.

“This is not true. The mujahidin suggest initial titles, I write the scripts, hand them over for any copy changes that need to be made and the videos are shot. It’s all very fast – the first eight videos were written, approved and filmed in just 12 days – but the mujahidin are like that. In quick, get the job done, move on to the next task,” he writes.

Cantlie said he was “startled at what I’d learned, deeply hurt and realized I was desperately naïve,” when he learned the UK and US governments would not negotiate with the jihadists.

“It was as if our lives and the lives of our families were just a game of baseball. And here’s the thing: if our countries had just talked to the mujahidin, our chances of survival wouldn’t have been low at all. The pain and indignation of learning all of this was indescribable. Every-thing we’d based our belief on had been an illusion.”

Cantlie also include a personal message to his family and friends.

“To my darling wife, my friends in the media and my family: let our political leaders know it doesn’t have to be this way. Our political leaders have the power, if they choose to change things. For now, I am still alive, but at some point in the near future, the mujahidin will surely run out of patience. Just ask our government to talk. That’s all. Open a channel and negotiate with the Islamic State like the others did. If nothing is possible to agree on, then fine, but it cannot compromise policy to open a dialogue.”

Cantlie, who has worked for a variety of British publications, was captured in Syria in late 2012. He has appeared in several propaganda videos released by the Islamic State group.

In recent weeks the militants have released online videos showing the beheading of US reporter James Foley, American-Israeli journalist Steven Sotloff and British aid workers David Haines and Alan Henning.

Associate Press contributed to this report.

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