Tags: ISIS/Islamic State | Steven Sotloff | Syrian Rebels | ISIS | Murder | Sen. John McCain

Sen. John McCain Denies Syrian Rebels Caused Sotloff's ISIS Murder

Monday, 22 Sep 2014 10:15 AM

Arizona Sen. John McCain and the White House have forcefully denied claims by the family of beheaded American journalist Steven Sotloff that the group responsible for his abduction and ultimately his death are moderate Syrian rebels.

Barak Barfi, a close friend of the murdered Sotloff and a spokesman for his family, told The Daily Beast that the Northern Storm Brigade, which is affiliated with the Free Syrian Army, had detained the writer and sold him to the Islamic State (ISIS) for cash.

Barfi claimed that Sotloff had crossed the border between Turkey and Syria on August 4 last year at the Azaz crossing point, and just hours later he was being held by brutal ISIS fighters.

"Steven was delayed at the border by people who worked with the Northern Storm," Barfi said, adding that a brigade member contacted ISIS and turned over Sotloff for $25,000 to $50,000.

Three months earlier, McCain had met with the same members of the brigade at the same Azaz border near where the journalist was seized, according to the Beast.

According to Barfi, Sotloff was first held up at the Free Syrian Army's media center on the Syrian side of the border, which was run by the Northern Storm.

Islamic State leaders were then tipped off about his arrival, and ISIS set up a roadblock leading away from the crossing to snatch Sotloff and his fixer. The fixer was released two weeks later, the Beast said.

But McCain, who has been pressing President Barack Obama for months to arm the moderate rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar Assad, slammed Barfi's claims that the Northern Storm rebels he had border talks with were to blame for Sotloff's abduction and indirectly his violent videotaped murder.

"Baseless and unsubstantiated allegations like these do nothing to ease the pain of the Sotloff family and the families of those still held captive in Syria, all of whom remain in my thoughts and prayers," McCain told The Daily Beast.

"The law enforcement and diplomatic officials who have investigated this case, and all of the credible Syria experts I know, have concluded that individuals associated with radical Islamist groups, not moderate opposition forces, were responsible for Mr. Sotloff's abduction.

"In fact, the people I met with in Syria were committed enemies of ISIS, and many of them have since been killed fighting ISIS."

McCain's denial is backed up by an earlier statement that Secretary of State John Kerry had made in testimony before Congress, during which he said, "That never happened. Actually, there is intelligence that refutes it."

Kerry, in fact, suggested that Barfi had been the victim of "false information" from ISIS. And a senior administration official also told The Daily Beast that Barfi's allegations were unfounded, while noting that Kerry's comments were based on U.S. intelligence reports.

"Mr. Barfi's service to the memory of his friend is honorable, as is his dedication to the Sotloff family," the official said. "No one questions it, nor should they, and nor would we. But the puzzling accusation, presented without evidence, that the moderate opposition kidnapped or sold Sotloff flies in the face of all our available intelligence.

"I can only conclude it's based on really bad information. We have no reason to believe, nor have we seen any evidence to suggest, that Steven Sotloff was abducted or sold by the moderate opposition or the Northern Storm, quite the contrary."

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Arizona Sen. John McCain and the White House have forcefully denied claims by the family of beheaded American journalist Steven Sotloff that the group responsible for his abduction and ultimately his death are moderate Syrian rebels.
Steven Sotloff, Syrian Rebels, ISIS, Murder, Sen. John McCain
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2014-15-22
Monday, 22 Sep 2014 10:15 AM
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