The families of both American journalists murdered by ISIS have complained that the US government didn’t appear to prioritize the plight of James Foley or Steven Sotloff — and in the latter case, the man abducted along with him agrees. Yosef Abobaker has a reputation among foreign correspondents as a trustworthy “fixer,” a guide who can make contacts and watch out for traps. Terrorists seized both Abobaker and Sotloff at the same time as they crossed into Syria, eventually releasing the fixer while keeping Sotloff as a hostage until his murder last month. Abobaker expected the American government to ask him about the abduction, but he claims no one ever attempted to do so:
In an interview with CNN this week, Abobaker provided a detailed account of how he, Sotloff and three armed guards were abducted in Syria by ISIS fighters in August 2013, but since then, never once did U.S. officials try to interview Abobaker about his first-hand experience with ISIS and its captivity of Sotloff.
“No, nobody tried to contact me and I tried to help. Nobody come to me and ask me any questions from the (U.S.) government…. Nobody contact me or ask me about their conditions,” Abobaker said in occasionally broken English. “And they can find me. It’s easy. But, no, nobody tried to contact me.”
Abobaker’s assertions that his abductors were ISIS fighters couldn’t be independently verified by CNN.
A Sotloff family representative who kept contact with Abobaker before and after his captivity reiterated the claims, saying U.S. government or security agencies — who were made aware of the fixer and his connection to Sotloff — never talked to Abobaker.
“That was one of many mistakes,” Sotloff family spokesman Barak Barfi told CNN. He declined to comment further.
It’s not as if Abobaker went into hiding. He left messages on Facebook, got in contact with Sotloff’s family, and even tried to investigate where Sotloff’s captors had taken him. Abobaker assumed that the US would want to get the information he collected, or at least interrogate him to establish the facts of the case. Yet the call never came.
And that is … curious, to say the least, if it’s true. The FBI told CNN that they are still “actively investigating the savage murder of Steven Sotloff at the hands of terrorists and will not discuss investigative details at this time,” the latter of which is completely understandable. But if the US government never reached out to the man who was abducted along with Sotloff — either to garner intelligence about the abduction or even just to eliminate him as a suspect — how active could this investigation have been? Small wonder that the Sotloffs have begun speaking out, if indirectly through Barfi, about their anger and frustration in dealing with the Obama administration through their excruciating ordeal. In fact, they got so angry over the selective leaks from the White House that they threatened one week ago to start leaking a few of the details of their handling of the case themselves. This looks like the starting point for the Sotloffs in setting the record straight.