ISIL video purports to show the beheading of US journalist Steven Sotloff

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A video has surfaced online which purports to show the beheading of American journalist Steven Sotloff by Islamic State (IS) militants.

The video, which was very reminiscent of the beheading video of journalist James Foley, shows Sotloff in an orange jumpsuit similar to the one worn by Foley in the previous video.

Sotloff, who worked as a journalist for Time and Foreign Policy magazine, was working in Syria in 2013 when he was taken by Islamic State militants.

In the video, which was entitled “A Second Message to America”, Sotloff is shown kneeling in front of a masked militant who says: “As your missiles continue to strike our people, our knife will continue to strike the necks of your people.”

This second high-profile killing of a Western journalist is a response by the Islamic State to US airstrikes targeting the group in Iraq in recent weeks.

Still from a video showing a masked Islamic State militant – believed to be a British national – executing US journalist James Foley (photo: Reuters)

In the video, militants also threatened the life of David Haines, a British national who was captured by IS.

Sotloff’s mother released a video last week pleading for IS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi to spare her son’s life.

“Steven is a journalist who traveled to the Middle East to cover the suffering of Muslims at the hands of tyrants. Steven is a loyal and generous son, brother and grandson,” she said. “He is an honorable man and has always tried to help the weak.”

“My son is in your hands,” she said. “As a mother I ask your justice to be merciful and not punish my son for matters he has no control over. I ask you to use your authority to spare his life.”

Sotloff’s mother makes a plea for her son’s life

The US has reportedly been attempting to secure Sotloff’s release since he was taken hostage by IS.

“I’m not in a position to confirm the authenticity of that video,” said White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, who was still unaware of the video’s release when he was asked about it by a reporter.

“This is something that the administration has obviously been watching carefully since this threat against Mr. Sotloff’s life was originally made a few weeks ago,” Earnest said.

“But if there is a video that has been released, it is something that will be analyzed very carefully by the US government and our intelligence officials to determine its authenticity,” he added.

“Our thoughts and prayers, first and foremost, are with Mr Sotloff and Mr Sotloff’s family and those who worked with him,” he said. “The United States, as you know, has dedicated significant time and resources to try and rescue Mr. Sotloff.”