Shirley Sotloff
Steven Sotloff's mother has pleaded for him to be released by Isis

A desperate mother has made a dignified appeal to Muslim fanatics holding her son to spare his life and not behead him like James Foley.

Shirley Sotloff issued a plea on behalf of Steven Sotloff, 31, who is being held prisoner in Iraq by the Islamic terrorists of Islamic State – formerly known as Isis.

Sotloff, who works as a journalist, has been threatened with execution by IS in revenge for US air strikes on land that the terror group holds in Iraq.

He has been held hostage by IS for more than a year but the beheading of Foley on 19 August has brought his plight into sharp focus.

His family had until now stayed quiet by not making any public pronouncements, following warnings from IS, but Foley's death has changed the situation.

There are fears time for Steven may be running out, with US President Barack Obama likely to step up involvement in the Middle East conflict. The United States has a policy of not negotiating with terrorists, meaning any ransom demand is unlikely to be met.

Addressing the self-appointed spiritual leader of the Muslim caliphate that IS claims to be carving out, Sotloff pleaded with Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi to release her son from captivity.

More than 11,000 people have signed a petition on the White House site asking Obama to get Steven released by whichever means necessary.

Describing her son as "loyal and generous," Sotloff said: "Steven is a journalist who travelled to the Middle East to cover this suffering of Muslims at the hands of tyrants.

"We have not seen Steven for over a year and we miss him very much. We want to see him home safe and sound and to hug him.

"Steven has no control over the actions of the US government. He's an innocent journalist.

"As a mother, I ask you to please be merciful and don't punish my son for matters he has no control over. I want what every mother wants - to see their children's children. I plead with you to grant me this.

"You, the caliph, can grant amnesty. I ask you please to release my child."