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Second US journalist beheaded by Islamic militants

By Tim Walker and Rob Hastings

Militants from the Islamic State have released a video claiming to show the beheading of American journalist Steven Sotloff – and threatening a British hostage with a similar fate if the US continues air strikes against its forces.

At the end of the new clip, an IS fighter parades a third hostage, identified as a British man, and threatens to behead him unless Western governments "back off" from the "evil alliance of America against the Islamic State".

The warning that a UK hostage could be the next to be murdered – and suggestions that Mr Sotloff's killer is British – will increase pressure on David Cameron to order the RAF to join US forces in attacking IS militants in Iraq and even Syria.

Last night, the Prime Minister, who has not ruled out military strikes but until now has restricted operations to humanitarian missions, called the latest killing and its recording "an absolutely disgusting and despicable act".

Mr Sotloff (31), who was born in Florida, was kidnapped in Syria last year. He had been held with other hostages including fellow US reporter James Foley, who was killed on camera last month.

The new video, which appeared online yesterday, seems to show Mr Sotloff kneeling in an orange jumpsuit and reading a prepared text in a desert location similar to where Mr Foley was murdered.

A masked man claiming to be the same IS fighter who appeared in the Foley video stands beside Mr Sotloff, brandishing a knife and addressing US President Barack Obama directly.

The militant says, in a British accent: "I'm back, Obama, because of your arrogant foreign policy towards the Islamic State.

"Just as your missiles continue to strike our people, our knife will continue to strike the necks of your people."

In the earlier video that depicted Mr Foley's murder, Isis had paraded Mr Sotloff and threatened to kill him unless Mr Obama called off air strikes against Isis in Iraq. Instead, days later, the president ordered those air strikes to be stepped up.

The new video, entitled A Second Message to America, appears to have been filmed at a later date, as Mr Sotloff's hair and stubble have grown longer.

The clip's existence was first reported by the SITE Intelligence Group, founded after the 9/11 attacks to monitor extremist communications.

Though the US could not confirm the video's authenticity, the White House spokesman Josh Earnest said: "Our thoughts and prayers are with Mr Sotloff and Mr Sotloff's family and those who worked with him."

Last week, Mr Sotloff's mother issued a video plea to the IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, urging him to show clemency to her son, whom she described as "an innocent journalist" who "has no control over the actions of the US government".

In the video, Shirley Sotloff addressed Baghdadi as "the caliph of the Islamic State", a title that he recently awarded himself, and urged him to show mercy.

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