Islamic State video released Tuesday purportedly shows American freelance journalist Steven Sotloff shortly before his execution by beheading. / Islamic State via epa
The U.S. intelligence community has concluded that an Islamic State video of an American journalist's beheading is genuine, and President Obama vowed Wednesday to bring Steven Sotloff's killers to justice.
Obama, speaking in Estonia where he is meeting with Baltic state leaders ahead of a NATO summit in Wales, called Sotloff's killing a "horrific act of violence."
"Whatever these murderers think they've achieved by murdering innocent Americans ... they have failed," Obama said.
Sotloff's family, meanwhile, remembered him as man who devoted his life to airing the stories of voiceless victims of war.
"He ultimately sacrificed his life to bring their story to the world,'' said Barak Barfi, a Sotloff family spokesman.
Barfi read a brief statement on behalf of the family in Miami.
"He was no war junkie,'' Barfi said. "He did not want to be a modern-day Lawrence of Arabia. He merely wanted to give voice to those who have none.''
The president said Sotloff's killers would be found and that his death would only serve to unite Americans.
"We will not be intimidated. Their horrific acts only unite us as a country and stiffen our resolve to take the fight against these terrorists," Obama said. "And 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."
U.S. airstrikes have slowed the Islamic State advance in their brutal effort to carve a nation - ruled by sharia law - from an area of Syria and Iraq. Obama acknowledged that the U.S. has not fully developed strategy for crushing the Islamic State threat. "It's going to take time for us to be able to roll them back," he said.
On Tuesday, Obama authorized sending some 350 additional U.S. military personnel to protect diplomatic facilities and personnel in Baghdad. The Defense Department said in a statement that it "will continue to plan and prepare further military options should they become necessary, and we will remain ready to protect our diplomats, our citizens, and our interests in Iraq, while we continue to work with the Iraqi government to counter the Islamic State."
Sotloff, 31, had appeared in a video released by the Islamic State last month that showed the beheading of another American journalist, James Foley. The group had threatened to kill Sotloff next. The video of Sotloff's death, titled "A Second Message to America," was released Tuesday.
Sotloff, kneeling next to an Islamic State member, says in the video that he is "paying the price" with his life for U.S. intervention in Iraq.
"You've spent billions of U.S. taxpayers' dollars and we've lost thousands of our troops in our previous fighting against the Islamic State," Sotfloff says. "So where is the people's interest in reigniting this war?"
Moments later, a hooded man dressed in black blames Obama before beheading Sotloff.
"I'm back, Obama, and I'm back because of your arrogant foreign policy toward the Islamic State," the man says. He then takes a knife to the throat of Sotloff.
"The U.S. Intelligence Community has analyzed the recently released video showing U.S. citizen Steven Sotloff and has reached the judgment that it is authentic," NSC spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in a brief statement Wednesday. "We will continue to provide updates as they are available."
The British government said separately Wednesday that it made an unsuccessful attempt to rescue a British man - David Cawthorne Haines - being held by the Islamic State. Sotloff's killers have threatened to kill Haines if the U.S. and other western countries continue to combat Islamic State efforts.
The U.S. State Department issued a statement Wednesday blasting the "unfathomable brutality" of Islamic State terrorists.
"There are no words strong enough to express the sorrow we feel for his family, particularly his mother, whose heartbreaking video plea spoke to every single parent who has ever worried about a son or daughter who goes to dangerous places to do the work they love," the statement said, adding that the U.S. has used diplomatic and military efforts to bring Sotloff and other hostages home.
"Our special operations forces bravely risked a military operation to save these lives, and we've reached out diplomatically to everyone and anyone who might be able to help. That effort continues, and our prayers remain â?? as they always are â?? with the families of all hostages who remain trapped in Syria today."
Contributing: William M. Welch in Los Angeles
Copyright 2014USA TODAY
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