Vigil to be held at UCF for former student executed by Islamic State militants



BEIRUT - The United States has verified the authenticity of a video released Tuesday showing the beheading of freelance reporter Steven Sotloff, two weeks after journalist James Foley was similarly killed.

Sotloff went to the University of Central Florida from 2002 to 2004, studying journalism, and then went overseas to report. A vigil will be held for Sotloff at UCF Wednesday at 9 p.m.

A memorial sits outside the University Of Central Florida's communication arts building in honor of Sotloff.

Journalism professor Kimberly Voss said, "The fact that our students are very connected to the story, we wanted to make this a teaching moment."

Voss said students are connecting on both an emotional and practical level with Sotloff.

President Barack Obama said Wednesday that the United States will not be intimidated by Islamic State militants after the beheading of a second American journalist and will build a coalition to "degrade and destroy" the group.

Obama still did not give a timeline for deciding on a strategy to go after the extremist group's operations in Syria. "It'll take time to roll them back," the president said at a news conference during a visit to Europe.

Obama vowed the U.S. would not forget the "terrible crime against these two fine young men."

"Our reach is long and justice will be served," Obama said.

UCF students told WFTV they were shocked to hear of the killing.

"We all have heavy hearts here on this campus," said Student Body Vice President Sydney Altfield. "Everyone who comes here is a Knight, always a Knight. And I know that his legacy will definitely be left on this campus."

"Because he is from UCF, it feels really personal to us," said student Alexa Rahmanparast. "But it's also a sad issue going on."

University of Central Florida President John C. Hitt released the following statement: "Our UCF family mourns Steven’s death, and we join millions of people around the world who are outraged at this despicable and unjustifiable act."

Central Florida congressman Alan Grayson told Eyewitness News he was shocked by the video and wants surrounding countries to step in.

"I'm disgusted and horrified like almost everybody else," Grayson said. "What I'm still hoping to see though is local Muslim countries in the area take responsibility for putting down the ISIS uprising."

In the Sotloff video, a masked militant warns Obama that as long as U.S. airstrikes against the militant group continue, "our knife will continue to strike the necks of your people."

Obama responded that he will continue to fight the militant threat and the "barbaric and ultimately empty vision" it represents.

"Our objective is to make sure that ISIL is not an ongoing threat to the region," he said, using an acronym for the militant group. "And we can accomplish that. It's going to take some time and it's going to take some effort."

Sotloff, a 31-year-old Miami-area native who freelanced for Time and Foreign Policy magazines, vanished a year ago in Syria and was not seen again until he appeared in the video that showed Foley's beheading. Dressed in an orange jumpsuit against an arid Syrian landscape, Sotloff was threatened in that video with death unless the U.S. stopped airstrikes on the Islamic State.

In the video distributed Tuesday and titled "A Second Message to America," Sotloff appears in a similar jumpsuit before he is apparently beheaded by a fighter with the Islamic State, the extremist group that has conquered wide swaths of territory across Syria and Iraq and declared itself a caliphate.