Murdered American journalist Steve Sotloff was not "sold to Islamic State" by "moderate rebels," the White House stated Tuesday night.
"As it relates to the specifics of this matter, based on the information that has been provided to me, I don’t believe that is accurate, but I do know at the same time that this is the subject of an ongoing FBI investigation,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest stated. “They are looking into all aspects of this, including how Mr. Sotloff may have come into the hands of IS.”
He did not give details of the findings, however. An FBI spokesperson later declined comment when contacted by NBC News.
Rumors that the "moderate" rebels in Syria, which are supported by the US government, made headlines Tuesday after Sotloff family spokesman Barak Barfi told CNN that Sotloff - who was Jewish and a joint US-Israeli citizen - was sold for a large sum of money at the Syrian border.
Barfi cited credible "sources on the ground" for the claim, which said that "activists" had framed Sotloff for the bombing of a hospital.
“We believe that these so-called moderate rebels that people want our administration to support, one of them sold him probably for something between $25,000 and $50,000 to ISIS and that was the reason he was captured,” Barfi said.
Barfi also accused the US government of using Sotloff, and fellow murdered journalist James Foley, as "pawns" in a "political game" to gain power in the Middle East.
"We know that the intelligence community and the White House are enmeshed in a larger game of bureaucratic infighting and Jim and Steve are pawns in this game and that's not fair and if there continues to be leaks the Sotloff family will have to speak out to set the record straight," he said.
IS terrorists murdered Sotloff earlier this month, decapitating him on film and in a clip entitled "A Second Message to America."
The tape not only vows death on another journalist - British civilian David Haines - but also threatens the US over its action against the terrorists.
The incident has sparked a worldwide scramble to suppress terrorism in Syria and Iraq, where IS has been taking large swaths of land over the past several months and committing genocide against thousands of ethnic minorities.