Mother of American hostage issues direct appeal to ISIS leader

(CBS) - The mother of an American journalist being held captive by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has issued a direct plea to the extremist group's leader to spare her son's life.

Shirley Sotloff, the mother of 31-year-old Steven Sotloff released a video in which she directly addresses Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS, acknowledging his self-declared authority as the caliph of the Muslim world.

"My son Steven is in your hands," she said. "You, the caliph, can grant amnesty. I ask you please to release my child. I ask you to use your authority to spare his life."

Ms. Sotloff released the video a week after a grisly video showed journalist James Foley being beheaded by the Islamic militants. ISIS threatened to make Sotloff, who was also pictured in the video, their next victim.

"As a mother, I ask your justice to be merciful and not punish my son for matters he has no control over," Ms. Sotloff said, adding: "Steven has no control over the actions of the U.S. government. He is an innocent journalist."

She also invoked Islam in a bid to persuade al-Baghdadi.

"I ask you to use your authority to spare his life and to follow the example set by the Prophet Muhammad, who protected the People of the Book," she said.

The New York Times reports that Sotloff's plea is likely the first time a non-Muslim has acknowledged al-Baghdadi as the leader, or caliph, of the Islamic state.

In 2005, during the U.S. occupation of Iraq, U.S. soldiers arrested al-Baghdadi. But when the American military closed its Camp Bucca prison, al-Baghdadi was handed over to Iraqi security forces, who let him go.

In the five following years, he built a fighting force that joined Syria's civil war and took over hundreds of square miles.

CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer reported that in Syria, al-Baghdadi honed his skills as a commander with violence so extreme that even al Qaeda's leader Ayman al-Zawahiri cut all ties to ISIS.


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