Steven Sotloff, the journalist executed by ISIS this week, was not only an American citizen but also a Jewish Israeli citizen, according to Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Paul Hirschson, an Israeli diplomat and spokesperson, revealed the information through his Twitter account Wednesday morning saying: "Cleared for publications: Steven Satloff [sic] was #Israel citizen RIP."
Sotloff's nationality was kept secret up until U.S. and United Kingdom officials verified the authenticity of the ISIS execution video. Governments involved said the secrecy surrounding Sotloff's Israeli citizenship was necessary to avoid further endangering the journalist's life while it was in the hands of Islamic extremists. Even still, Sotloff managed to observe Jewish customs while captive.
Quoting a fellow captive, Fox News reports that Sotloff managed to pray in secret as well, unknown to his captors:
GALLAGHER: "Steven Sotloff would actually watch and see which way his Muslim captors were facing while they prayed and then he would turn and adjust himself so that he was praying toward Israel."
The Times of Israel writes that Sotloff moved to Israel in 2008 to finish college, and while reporting throughout the Middle East he never shared the fact he was Jewish with anyone, opting instead to tell them he was a secular Muslim.
"He sometimes even chose to tell people that he was of Chechen origin, and that Sotloff – a name that rings decidedly Jewish to those familiar with Jewish names – was actually a Chechen name."
The paper says it knew of Sotloff's Jewish ties for weeks before his murder, but chose not to publish them for fear that it would endanger him.
The Guardian discovered a similar move by an Israeli magazine, the Jerusalem Report, in which an editor told them that they too refused to acknowledge any relationship with him over fears of what'd it mean for his safety.
As for whether or not knowing Sotloff's nationality would have actually put him in any danger, an editorial on the Los Angeles-based Jewish Journal referenced a similar situation in 2002 with Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.
Pearl was captured and killed by a member of Al-Qaeda in Pakistan after being forced to clearly announce in a video that he and his family were all Jewish. That led some to believe that he was targeted specifically for being a Jewish reporter.
Speaking through a spokesperson, Sotloff's family said Wednesday: "Steve was no hero. Like all of us, he was a mere man who tried to find good concealed in a world of darkness."