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Islamic State Video Appears To Show Beheading Of A New U.S. Journalist


More disturbing news today from the extremist group that calls the Islamic State. They claim to have beheaded another American journalist. The group posted a video that appears to show the killing of Steven Sotloff. The White House and State Department say the U.S. government is still working to authentic that video. The State Department's Jen Psaki spoke earlier today.


JEN PSAKI: If the video is genuine, we are sickened by this brutal act - taking the life of another innocent American citizen.

BLOCK: The group also killed journalist James Foley just about two weeks ago. NPR Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman is following the story, and he joins us now. And Tom, what does this new video show?

TOM BOWMAN, BYLINE: Well, Melissa, it's very much like the video that showed the execution of James Foley just two weeks ago. We see, once again, a man dressed in black. His face is covered. He's holding and waving a knife, and he's standing above a man in an orange jumpsuit who's kneeling next to him. And it appears to be Stephen Sotloff.

Sotloff gives a statement. He was forced to read a political statement about American foreign policy, talking about Guantanamo, billions spent on Middle Eastern wars and so forth. And then the man with the knife says quote, "I'm back, Obama." He also reads a statement. He talks about American airstrikes and threatens to kill more Americans. And then the tape shows him taking the knife and holding it at Sotloff's throat and apparently murdering him.

BLOCK: And Tom, the killer does sound like the man that we saw on the video where we saw the execution of James Foley. Looks - seems to be the same man.

BOWMAN: Yeah. Based on what he says, it seems to be the same man. He's got a British accent. His build looks about the same. He's also left-handed. And the terrain looks similar as well. It's a desert. The video is shot from two angles. In the distance you can see sort of a small hill. So it does appear to be the same here.

BLOCK: Tom, what does this tell you about the group's apparent media strategy - the release of these two videos?

BOWMAN: Well, you know, it just shows you how media savvy they are. You know, there's a lot of talk about their videos, their web recruitment pages and their tweets. And it was after this video, by the way, that the release of the James Foley killing - that video - that senior officials in Washington, starting with President Obama and Defense Secretary Hagel and others, reacted very strongly and started a debate about whether to attack this group in Syria. So they stepped up surveillance flights. There was talk of launching missiles at the headquarters in Syria. And talk of airstrikes quickly faded, but they're still very much possible.

BLOCK: Any word Tom, from the administration about possible response here?

BOWMAN: Well, we haven't heard anything. Of course, the President said, you know, and others have said, you know - airstrikes, you know, are a simple thing to do but you need a broader strategy. But you know, when people see something like this video, a lot of times there's a visceral reaction. There's a gut reaction. There's a sense you have to do something. And that puts a lot of pressure on politicians to do something. So again, the President said we have to wait for a coherent strategy, but again when people see something like this, a lot of times people have to act.

BLOCK: NPR Pentagon correspondent, Tom Bowman. Thanks so much.

BOWMAN: You're welcome.

BLOCK: And again, news today of the apparent murder of journalist Steven Sotloff by Islamic State extremists. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

As special correspondent and guest host of NPR's news programs, Melissa Block brings her signature combination of warmth and incisive reporting. Her work over the decades has earned her journalism's highest honors, and has made her one of NPR's most familiar and beloved voices.
Tom Bowman is a NPR National Desk reporter covering the Pentagon.