ISIS video purports to show beheading of American journalist

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The terrorist group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) on Tuesday released a video that appears to show the beheading of American journalist Steven Joel Sotloff.

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The White House said the intelligence community is working "as quickly as possible" to determine the video's authenticity. ISIS had threatened to execute the 31-year-old freelance journalist if President Obama did not withdraw American forces from Iraq.  

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the administration had been watching the situation closely and has "dedicated significant time and resources to trying" to rescue him.

He also pledged the new video "will be analyzed very carefully by the U.S. government" and its intelligence services.

"Our thoughts and prayers first and foremost are with Mr. Sotloff and Mr. Sotloff's family," Earnest said.

According to audio of the tape, Sotloff is heard reciting a taunting message to Obama.

"Obama, your foreign policy of intervention in Iraq is supposed to be for the preservation of American lives, and interests. So why is it that I'm having to pay the price for the interference with my life?" Sotloff says.

A masked militant heard speaking on the tape speaks with a British accent similar to that of an ISIS fighter in an earlier video showing the beheading of U.S. journalist James Foley.

Last week, Sotloff's mother pleaded in a video for ISIS militants to release her son.

“I want what every mother wants: to live to see her children’s children. I plead with you to grant me this," she said.

If confirmed, Sotloff's beheading would be the second of an American journalist by the radical Sunni Islamist group. ISIS released a video showing the beheading of Foley on Aug. 19.

In that video, a masked militant was shown holding Sotloff captive and threatening to behead him next. 

Obama said the world was "appalled" by Foley's killing and called his beheading "an act of violence that shocks the conscience."

"The United States of America will continue to do what we must do to protect our people," Obama said in remarks from Martha's Vineyard, where he was vacationing at the time. "We will be vigilant and we will be relentless. When people harm Americans anywhere, we do what is necessary to make sure justice is done." 

ISIS is threatening to execute Briton David Cawthorne Haines next, according to the SITE Intelligence Group.

The beheading is likely to increase pressure on Obama to spell out a strategy for taking on ISIS, an al Qaeda offshoot that has taken over large parts of Iraq and Syria.

On Sunday, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee sharply criticized Obama for his handling of ISIS.

Speaking on “Fox News Sunday,” Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) said statements from the White House last week that it does not yet have a firm strategy on ISIS are indicative of the Obama administration’s foreign policy failures.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), one of the administration’s top foreign policy critics, on Sunday said Obama’s responses to the conflicts in the Middle East and Ukraine show he is “either in denial or overwhelmed.”

Appearing on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” the senior Republican lawmaker said he was “astounded” by the president’s recent comments that news programs and social media were partly to blame for many believing that “the world is falling apart.”

Those remarks show Obama is “either in denial or overwhelmed” by the threat posed by ISIS and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s designs on Ukraine, according to McCain.

Justin Sink contributed to this report, which was updated at 6:34 p.m.