Skip to main content

Apparent ISIS executioner: 'I'm back, Obama'

By Dana Ford, CNN
updated 4:09 AM EDT, Wed September 3, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The U.S. intelligence community is analyzing the latest video
  • ISIS videos of journalists' beheadings are strikingly similar
  • They appear to be shot in the same place, with the same executioner
  • The videos fade to black at certain points in production

(CNN) -- The similarities are striking.

An American journalist kneels in the desert, dressed in an orange prison-style jumpsuit. A masked "executioner" lords over him, wielding a knife.

The journalist speaks; the executioner speaks.

And then the horrific happens: the victim is beheaded.

Is the U.S. safe from ISIS?
ISIS blames Obama for Sotloff beheading

"It is almost the exact same choreography," said Peter Neumann, a professor at King's College London, comparing ISIS videos showing the deaths of American journalists Steven Sotloff and James Foley.

The executioner appears to be the same person. The location of the two killings also appears to be similar.

Neumann suspects they took place in or around the Syrian city of Raqqa, one of the safest areas for ISIS, which calls itself the Islamic State.

"It's titled 'A Second Message to America,' and it basically contains exactly the same message," Neumann said about the Sotloff video, which was posted Tuesday.

A video of Foley's execution was released last month.

The executioner

Sotloff's apparent executioner speaks in what sounds like the same British accent as the man who purportedly killed Foley.

He's dressed identically in both videos, head to toe in black, with a face mask and combat boots. He appears to be of similar build and height. He waves a knife in his left hand, as did the militant in the video of Foley's death.

And then, there are his actual words.

"I'm back, Obama, and I'm back because of your arrogant foreign policy towards the Islamic State," the executioner says in the second video. "Just as your missiles continue to strike our people, our knife will continue to strike the necks of your people."

Obama on ISIS in Syria: 'We don't have a strategy yet'

At the end, the video threatens the life of a British captive, just as the Foley video threatened Sotloff's life.

The SITE Intelligence group says there's no question the same masked fighter appears in both videos.

Adds CNN's Karl Penhaul, "He certainly wants us to think that he is the very same man."

Following Foley's death, the British ambassador to the United States said that experts in his country were close to identifying his killer. He has not yet been named.

Questions

Marie Harf: ISIS shows barbarism
ISIS recruits young children in video

The U.S. intelligence community is busy analyzing the Sotloff video to try to answer some key questions: When it was shot? Where was it shot? Is the killer the same as the one in the Foley video?

The administration does not want to speculate on specifics of the video until those questions can answered, a senior official told reporters.

Paul Ginsberg, a forensic audio and video expert, said analysts will comb through every inch of the video, "analyzing the electronic impulses, the audio, the video, the speech, voice identification, the geography -- for whatever information it can provide -- as well as the production techniques."

U.S. analysts have said it's not possible to know from the first video who beheaded Foley because the entire slaying is not shown. A man moves a knife across Foley's neck, then the picture fades to black.

Kerry: 'The cancer of ISIS will not be allowed to spread'

One forensics expert has raised the issue that there appear to be two militants in the video. The second militant appears on the video after an obvious edit.

"There's definitely a change of actor," said Ross Patel, the forensics expert. "There are noticeable -- there are subtle -- but there are also noticeable changes in their build, their physical appearance."

The man who speaks, holds a knife in one of his hands. It looks to be a different knife than the one that was left next to Foley's body.

Also, the dimensions and style of the knives are slightly different, Patel said.

In the Sotloff video, the picture fades to black immediately before and after the start of the beheading so, again, it's not immediately clear whether the man speaking is the same man who then killed the journalist.

Who is ISIS?

CNN's Tom Foreman, Jim Acosta, Steve Almasy and Nick Paton Walsh contributed to this report.

Part of complete coverage on
ISIS
updated 9:43 AM EDT, Wed September 17, 2014
The owner of an upstate New York food store funded ISIS, tried to send jihadists to Syria and plotted to do some killing himself.
updated 7:44 AM EDT, Wed September 17, 2014
By producing the magazine, ISIS is taking a cue from al Qaeda, which has advocated terrorist attacks in its glossy publication, Inspire.
updated 2:47 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
After the beheading of another Western captive by ISIS, an international conference convened in Paris to talk about how to tackle the threat of ISIS.
updated 8:06 AM EDT, Mon September 15, 2014
The beheading of British aid worker David Haines by ISIS has intensified fears for other Western hostages being held by the jihadist group.
updated 12:20 PM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
The atrocious murder of David Haines puts the United Kingdom and in particular PM David Cameron front and center in the evolving battle against ISIS.
updated 5:19 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
CNN's Anna Coren is on the front lines with Kurdish Peshmerga forces as they fight ISIS in Northern Iraq.
updated 6:08 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
Deb Feyerick explores the lives & dossiers of ISIS & Al-Qaeda's top leaders.
updated 10:41 PM EDT, Mon September 15, 2014
The family of aid worker David Haines is speaking out about his brutal murder by ISIS militants. Nic Robertson reports.
updated 6:32 PM EDT, Mon September 15, 2014
These are the nations involved and what's known about their contributions.
updated 7:29 PM EDT, Sun September 14, 2014
Three brutal executions. Three horrifyingly similar scripts.
updated 8:53 AM EDT, Wed September 10, 2014
ISIS has captured the minds of a new generation of global jihadists. What does it mean for al Qaeda?
updated 10:53 PM EDT, Tue September 9, 2014
Is it ISIS, ISIL, Islamic State or Daiish?
Here's a look at some of the major instances in which the U.S. military took action against Islamist groups or international terrorism.
updated 11:34 AM EDT, Fri September 5, 2014
Tom Foreman examines what we donĀ¹t yet know about ISIS.
updated 1:23 PM EDT, Thu September 4, 2014
To the outside world, they're a force of ruthless yet mysterious insurgents bent on terrorizing civilians and expanding Islamic rule.
updated 4:21 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
ISIS has become the new face of international terrorism in the eyes of the United States and its Western allies.
updated 8:55 AM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
As its adversaries regroup, ISIS -- which now calls itself the Islamic State -- may begin to suffer setbacks on the battlefield.
updated 11:25 PM EDT, Thu June 12, 2014
Will ISIS be the first terror group to build an Islamic state?
A CNN interactive showing the presence of ISIS in the Middle East.
updated 3:25 PM EDT, Tue September 9, 2014
Jim Sciutto explains the similarities and differences between these Islamist jihadis.
ADVERTISEMENT