ISIS Demands Millions For The Young American Woman It's Holding Hostage
Following the execution of photojournalist James Foley, militant group the Islamist State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has been publicly threatening to kill other American hostages if the U.S. government doesn't act — and fast. The latest identified ISIS hostage is a female American humanitarian worker who disappeared in 2013. The terrorist group has demanded a multimillion-dollar ransom for the female hostage, as well as the release of a Pakistani neuroscientist currently in U.S. custody.
According to ABC News, the hostage has been identified as a 26-year-old woman who was in Syria doing humanitarian relief worker at the time of her abduction. Her name is not being released as requested by her family. She is believed to be held captive by the same group of ISIS members as Foley and freelance journalist Steven Sotloff; Sotloff appeared at the end of the video depicting Foley's execution, wearing the same orange jumpsuit as the slain photojournalist.
ISIS is requesting $6.6 million for the safe return of the 26-year-old hostage. The group also wants the U.S. government to release Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist who was trained at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Brandeis University. She is currently serving an 86-year sentence in a federal prison in Texas for attempted murder of U.S. personnel, stemming from her involvement with al Qaeda.
Although requests for Siddiqui's release have been made before, ABC News reported that her family is critical of her name being used as part of the ISIS ransom. Her family released this letter:
Associating Aafia's name with acts of violence is against everything we are struggling for. While we deeply appreciate the sincere feelings of those who, like us, wish to see the freedom of our beloved Aafia, we cannot agree with a 'by any means necessary' approach to Aafia's freedom. Nor can we accept that someone else's daughter or sister suffer like Aafia is suffering.
According to Vocativ, ISIS has been putting more pressure on President Barack Obama and his administration this week by launching a Twitter campaign centered around Sotloff. The terrorist group created the hashtag #StevensHeadInObamasHands as a way to stir anti-American sentiments and compel the U.S. government into action.
The campaign reportedly began on the ISIS forum al-Manbar, where social media users can find pre-made tweets and propagandist images to use with the hashtag. Many of the images are graphic. Vocativ adds that many of the tweets are being cross-tagged with popular and innocuous hashtags, presumably as a way to reach a wider English-language audience.
ISIS did not set a monetary ransom for Sotloff. In the video of Foley's execution, ISIS claimed that Sotloff's fate was now in the hands of Obama. These executions of Americans, ISIS said, was retribution for the recent airstrikes on ISIS targets in Iraq.
It's unclear which steps the U.S. government will now take to free the captured Americans. Paying out ransom funds seems unlikely, as an investigation conducted by The New York Times found that the U.S. government tends to decline paying ransoms, while many European governments, such as the French, are more likely to hand over the large sums. According to The Times, kidnapping ransoms have become a primary source of revenue for Al Qaeda — which ISIS used to be a part of — amounting to hundreds of million dollars over the last five years alone.
Over the last week, the U.S. military has escalated its airstrikes against ISIS targets in northern Iraq. Nearly 90 airstrikes have taken place in Iraq since August 8, according to the Pentagon.
Images: Getty Images (3)