Obama Vows U.S. Will Not be Intimidated by New Beheading

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President Barack Obama vowed Wednesday that the United States would not be intimidated by the beheading of a second American reporter but acknowledged the fight against the jihadists would take time.

Obama pledged that justice would be done to the Islamic State (IS) killers of 31-year-old reporter Steven Sotloff, wherever they hid and however long it took.

But he warned that eliminating the threat posed to the region by the group from its bases in Iraq and Syria would take time.

IS posted video footage on the Internet of Sotloff's beheading, confirmed as authentic by Washington, which sparked outrage around the world.

It said the journalist's killing, which comes on the heels of the beheading last month of another U.S. reporter, James Foley, was in retaliation for expanded U.S. air strikes against its fighters in Iraq over the past week.

It warned a British hostage would be next unless London backs off from its support for Washington's air campaign.

Obama said the whole world had been repulsed by the barbarism of Sotloff's murder but "we will not be intimidated".

"Those who make the mistake of harming Americans will learn that we will not forget and that our reach is long and that justice will be served," he said.

Obama said Washington was determined to halt the IS threat to the region but warned it would depend on close cooperation with partners in the region.

He has previously admitted that his administration has yet to develop a comprehensive strategy for tackling IS on both sides of the Iraq-Syria border.

Later on Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry denounced the beheading of Sotloff as an act of "medieval savagery" and said the jihadists who killed him were not the true face of Islam.

"The real face of Islam is not what we saw yesterday, when the world bore witness again to the unfathomable brutality of ISIL terrorist murders," Kerry said at a ceremony to honor the new special U.S. envoy to Muslim communities.

The top U.S. diplomat called Sotloff "a driven and courageous journalist," saying he was killed by a "coward hiding behind a mask" from the Islamic State militants also known by the acronym ISIL.

After having worked to try to bring Sotloff home safely, Kerry said his murder so soon after that of fellow reporter James Foley last month was "a punch to the gut."

The United States would hunt down Sotloff's killers, Kerry vowed.

"Those who have murdered James Foley and Steven Sotloff in Syria need to know that the United States will hold them accountable... no matter how long it takes," the veteran diplomat said to applause at the State Department ceremony for new envoy Shaarik Zafar.

"The face of Islam is not the butchers that killed Steven Sotloff. That's ISIL. The face of Islam is not the nihilists who know only how to destroy not to build. It's not masked cowards, whose actions are an ugly insult to the peaceful religion that they violate every single day with their barbarity," Kerry insisted.

"The real face of Islam is a peaceful religion, based on the dignity of all human beings. It's one where Muslim communities are leading the fight against poverty, it's one where Muslim communities are providing basic healthcare and emergency assistance on the frontlines of some of our most devastating humanitarian crises."

Kerry also paid tribute to Sotloff, saying his "reporting was as empathetic as his killers are evil" and comparing him to legendary 20th century war correspondent Martha Gellhorn.

"He focused on the stories of average people trapped in war, and documented their day-in and day-out struggle for dignity," Kerry said.

"Like Martha Gellhorn, he chronicled humanity in the face of inhumanity, and he told the story of enormous generational events as if they were happening to someone you knew from your own life."

Washington has ruled out any air strikes for now against IS fighters on the Syrian side, where they hold a large swathe of the east.

Obama has also ruled out any cooperation with the Damascus regime against IS, for fear that it would drive other Sunni rebel groups in Syria into alliance with the jihadists.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said the video depicted an "absolutely disgusting, despicable act" and convened a meeting of security chiefs to discuss how to tackle the IS threat.

The masked executioner in the video spoke with a London accent and claimed to be the same man, confirmed by UK security services as a Briton, who beheaded Foley.

"I'm back, Obama, and I'm back because of your arrogant foreign policy towards the Islamic State," the black-clad jihadist says, wielding a combat knife.

"So just as your missiles continue to strike the necks of our people, our knife will continue to strike the necks of your people," he declares, before reaching round to cut his captive's throat.

The militant condemns U.S. air strikes against IS fighters around both Mosul Dam in the north and the Shiite Turkmen town of Amerli further south, which dates the video to the past week.

At the end of the five-minute video recording, the militant threatens another captive, identified as Briton David Cawthorne Haines.

"We take this opportunity to warn those governments that enter this evil alliance of America against the Islamic State to back off and leave our people alone," he says.

Britain has maintained a media silence about the kidnapping of aid worker Cawthorne Haines and there were few immediate details about when or how he was abducted.

Britain has not carried out any air strikes of its own against jihadist targets in Iraq but it has made extensive reconnaissance flights in support of the U.S. air campaign from its base in Cyprus.

In a statement, the Sotloff family, who live in Miami, said: "The family knows of this horrific tragedy and is grieving privately. There will be no public comment from the family during this difficult time."

After Foley's death, Sotloff's mother Shirley had addressed a video message to IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi pleading for her son's life, and insisting he had no influence on U.S. policy.

Sotloff's former employers at Time and Foreign Policy paid tribute to a man widely respected for his intrepid reporting in Syria and the wider region, including a previous stint in Libya.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the world was outraged at the apparent beheading.

"I strongly condemn all such despicable crimes and I refuse to accept that whole communities can be threatened by atrocities because of who they are or what they believe," Ban said.

Hours after the posting of the video, the White House announced that Obama had authorized about 350 more U.S. troops to beef up security at U.S. diplomatic facilities and protect personnel in Baghdad.

Washington initially limited the air support it launched on August 8 to Iraqi Kurdish forces fighting the jihadists in the north.

But late last week it expanded it to Iraqi troops and Shiite militia battling to relieve trapped civilians in Amerli, helping them to break the months-long IS siege on Sunday.

Assistance is now arriving in the town, brought in both by Shiite militia fighters and the United Nations.

Comments 7
Default-user-icon nwsrrd (Guest) 03 September 2014, 14:47

this used to be a regular occurrence in Iraq when Abu Musab al-Zarqawi who came to Iraq from Iran and his alQaeda terrorists who were sent across the Syrian border operated there

Thumb ado.australia 03 September 2014, 18:18

anonymetexasusa... why undermine the murder of your fellow citizen with your political rubbish? nothing to do with Hezbollah and you are helping justify the terrorists with your comments.

Thumb ado.australia 03 September 2014, 18:22

the first anti US attacks occurred after US administrator Paul Bremer refused to pay $20 to the 500,000 iraqi soldiers! either stop your lies or educate yourself on why and what really happened.

Default-user-icon ime (Guest) 03 September 2014, 19:16

suuure bremer caused bashar assad to send al qaeda takfiris to iraq

Thumb ado.australia 03 September 2014, 18:15

Rest in peace Steven Sotloff... May God give strength and comfort to the family of this dignified man and the terrorist evil perpetrators receive their deserved punishment in this life and beyond!

Thumb Mystic 03 September 2014, 20:37

Ofcourse Obama will not be intimidated, it is his own minions mocking him.

Default-user-icon PEACE (Guest) 04 September 2014, 11:00

Bravo Smart American politician
(forget about opposing opinion of American people)
I praise Kerry's knowledge about Islam.
Also I admire the patience of Barak HUSSEIN Obama to act
Mr Obama, By the time you're ready to act either Abu bakr will be dead, or Obama will be dead or the action will be cancelled.