The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) sent mixed signals on Twitter this week regarding the fate of captive American journalist Steven Sotloff.
On Thursday, the Twitter account @ISPressOffice, which claims to be an official English-language ISIL account, reported that Sotloff’s disposition would be decided soon.
A message supposedly sent from Sotloff on the ISIL account, apparently forced under duress of being held captive, denounced the U.S. bombing of ISIL targets in Iraq.
Two messages that were later removed read: “Breaking: A message from Steven Sotloff: USA strikes is not justifiable, thus Islamic State has the right to revenge, I urge Obama to…stop his grave actions so the tit-for-tat game ends. What happens to me is because of Obama, fellow Americans hold him accountable!”
The ISIL account then stated in part that “we are hereby notifying our supporters that this is an official IS [Islamic State] English account… Managed by an Islamic state media representative live-tweeting from Syria and Iraq.”
“Steven Sotloff’s fate will be decided as soon as possible…His own government failed him.”
The ominous tweet was then followed Friday by two other tweets, including one statement claiming Sotloff will be released.
“We will release Steven Sotloff…. But?” the message read.
Prior to that, another social media posting said: “While Obama is talking live now, Steven sotlof is waiting him to say something about him and how he could be saved, stopping the airstrikes!”
The authenticity of the social media messages could not be confirmed.
U.S. counterterrorism officials are aware of the messages and had no comment.
The message followed an appeal on Wednesday from Shirley Sotloff, Sotloff’s mother.
“I am sending this message to you, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi al-Quraishi al-Hussaini, the caliph of the Islamic State. I am Shirley Sotloff. My son Steven is in your hands,” she stated. “You, the caliph, can grant amnesty. I ask you please to release my child,” she said. “I ask you to use your authority to spare his life.”
Baghdadi is the leader of ISIL.
Sotloff, a freelance journalist, was visible in the gruesome video released by ISIL last week showing the decapitation of journalist James Foley.
The group has threatened to kill Sotloff next unless U.S. military forces end all bombing against ISIL targets in northern Iraq.
U.S. bombing raids on targets, mainly ISIL vehicles, have continued.
The New York Times reported that in addition to Sotloff, ISIL is holding two humanitarian aid workers as hostages.
Sotloff has written for Time magazine and other news outlets and went missing in Syria in August 2013.
President Barack Obama, in a speech this week, vowed to take action against those who killed Foley.
“Our message to anyone who harms our people is simple,” Obama said in a speech to the American Legion in North Carolina.
“America does not forget, our reach is long, we are patient, justice will be done. We have proved time and time again we will do what’s necessary to capture those who harm Americans, to go after those who harm Americans. And we’ll continue to take direct action where needed to protect our people and to defend our homeland.”