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American held in Syria freed after nearly 2 years


By JIM KUHNHENN and RYAN LUCAS

WASHINGTON (AP) - As the U.S. mourned an American journalist beheaded by Islamic militants, the nation found something of a reprieve with the release of another freelance reporter who had been held hostage for nearly two years by an al-Qaida-linked group in Syria.

Peter Theo Curtis, who wrote under the byline Theo Padnos, was freed Sunday, offering consolation to U.S. officials, a journalism community and family members deeply unnerved by the grisly video of James Foley's beheading in a desolate desert landscape.

Curtis' release appeared to have been aided by the oil-rich nation of Qatar, which said Sunday that it had "exerted relentless efforts" to win the American's freedom. Qatar is a leading supporter of the Syrian rebels fighting to oust President Bashar Assad and has been involved in mediating past hostage releases.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Curtis had been held by Jabhat al-Nusra, also known as the Nusra Front, an al-Qaida-linked militant group fighting Assad's government.

Curtis was not believed to be among the hostages held by the Islamic State group that killed Foley. Islamic State was formally disavowed by al-Qaida earlier this year after being deemed too brutal.

Curtis' release was likely to renew questions about the intentions of different militant groups in Syria and Iraq and how the U.S. should deal with hostage takers.

President Barack Obama was briefed on the release Sunday morning as he wrapped up a vacation in Massachusetts.

"The president shares in the joy and relief that we all feel now that Theo is out of Syria and safe," said White House spokesman Eric Schultz. "But we continue to hold in our thoughts and prayers the Americans who remain in captivity in Syria, and we will continue to use all of the tools at our disposal to see that the remaining American hostages are freed."

A senior administration official said Curtis was released in the Golan Heights, where he was met by U.S. government personnel who were transporting him to Tel Aviv. The official was not authorized to speak by name and discussed the release on the condition of anonymity.

In a video obtained by The Associated Press and dated July 18, 2014, Curtis sits cross-legged on a floor with his hands bound, and appears to read from a sheet placed in front of him on the floor. Addressing the U.S. and European governments, he pleads for them to contact a named intermediary before it is too late.

"They have given me three days to live," he says as a man holding an assault rifle and dressed in camouflage stands next to him. "If you don't do anything, I'm finished. I'm dead. They will kill me. Three days. You have had 20 days, and you've done nothing."

He does not specify any demands, only urging Western governments to make contact with the intermediary.

Foley's captors had demanded $132.5 million (100 million euros) from his parents and political concessions from Washington. Neither obliged, authorities say.

Betsy Sullivan, a cousin of Curtis, said intermediaries involved in negotiations threatened the family and made ransom demands of varying amounts. But the family said that ultimately they were assured by Qatari representatives than no money was paid for Curtis' release.

His family said they believe Curtis was captured in October 2012, shortly after crossing into Syria.

"My heart is full at the extraordinary, dedicated, incredible people, too many to name individually, who have become my friends and have tirelessly helped us over these many months," Curtis' mother, Nancy Curtis, said in a statement from the family. "Please know that we will be eternally grateful."

The Obama administration used Curtis' release to insist that it was determined to find those responsible for Foley's death and pursue the release of other hostages.

"Theo Curtis, Jim Foley and other journalists travelled to Syria to shed light on the unspeakable horrors being committed against innocents - only to become victims of brutal forces unleashed and abetted by the conflict," U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power said in a statement. "So long as any American is held captive, the United States government will do everything in our power to bring them home safely."

Curtis, under the Theo Padnos byline, has written for the New Republic and in 2011 wrote a book called "Undercover Muslim: A Journey Into Yemen," which studied the radicalization of disaffected youths.

In another video from June 30, 2014, a man with a beard and disheveled hair identifies himself as Peter Theo Curtis from Boston, and says he is being treated well.

"I have everything I need. Everything has been perfect - food, clothing, even friends now," he says. He appears to be reading from a script.

In a statement, Kerry said that over the past two years, Washington had "reached out to more than two dozen countries asking for urgent help from anyone who might have tools, influence or leverage to help secure Theo's release and the release of any Americans held hostage in Syria."

American Journalist Freed After 2-Year Captivity In Syria



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ram4131 August 24 2014 at 5:13 PM

I'm thinking after what happened to Foley, that particular Syrian al-Quaida group did NOT want a pissed off SEAL team coming to get their hostage.

Flag Reply +35 rate up
7 replies
qsmuse August 24 2014 at 8:41 PM

… and Obama did all this from his vacation… What a complete a*****e. Shame on him! And shame on anyone who supports the job he is doing, or NOT doing!

Flag Reply +28 rate up
16 replies
HAYLEY BUG August 24 2014 at 8:56 PM

The most dangerous weapon in the world is a pissed off 20 year old marine... we are coming for you Islam!

Flag Reply +27 rate up
5 replies
janka51 August 24 2014 at 8:08 PM

did you read it ,O was wrapping up a vacation, what else has he done for the last 5 years

Flag Reply +21 rate up
14 replies
John August 24 2014 at 4:48 PM

We must have paid a huge undisclosed ransom to ISIS for his release. It sure wasn't Obama's aloof presence on the golf course that did it.

Flag Reply +20 rate up
14 replies
cvanac8550 August 24 2014 at 7:32 PM

where's there a Teddy Roovevelt when we need one....It used to mean something abroad to be an American citizen..When are we going to start wielding the big stick and punish these people who f*** with USa. Just target those responsible....

Flag Reply +18 rate up
6 replies
Practical Nomad August 24 2014 at 7:33 PM

After two years, they finally realized that America and Britain will not pay ransom for hostages, period. Just as President Obama did to kill Bin Laden, I think they feared another Seal Team on the heels of James Foley. Safe journey home Theo, well done Mr. President and company.

Flag Reply +17 rate up
10 replies
aaldrew August 24 2014 at 8:42 PM

These are the people we armed. They ARE our enemies.

Flag Reply +13 rate up
3 replies
fairfaxeagle August 24 2014 at 5:31 PM

Fantastic good news,regardless if there was a ransom or not.
There is no money on earth that is enough,to be paid, for an individual to envoy his or her right to live,peacefully and in freedom.
It would be better and wiser if those so called "freelance" journalists, would not adventure themselves in areas where they are out of protection ..it is unecessary and they expose themselves and their rescuers to dangers beyond any logics ..(just like hicking in mountains like Mt Everest ), to fulfill an ego, and thinking that helicopters and an army will rescue you..soon as you are in trouble .

Flag Reply +12 rate up
3 replies
sssprayfoam August 24 2014 at 8:16 PM

wrapping up a vacation LOL figures

Flag Reply +11 rate up
2 replies
thedoo319 sssprayfoam August 24 2014 at 10:04 PM

hes allowed a vacation and has several times left it to address the nation. congress takes 6 weeks where the hell have they been thru this and all the other crap happening in america? seems they are OFF THE GRID

Flag Reply +1 rate up
2 replies
mark and sheri thedoo319 August 25 2014 at 12:25 AM

Use SKYPE to replace meetings in the Capitol Dome, keep them in their home states, then they will not NEED vacations to visit their Citizens. And I was an LEO for 30 years, put my butt on the line many times, NEVER got a Gov't paid vacation, other than the Leave Days I accrued. Stop treating Politicians as royalty, quit with this "they work so hard" B.S.

Flag +2 rate up
Carolyn thedoo319 August 25 2014 at 9:11 AM

Please. Obama never addresses the nation. He talks down to us and divides. Wake up! Admit you were wrong.

Flag +2 rate up
silkroadg sssprayfoam August 25 2014 at 10:47 AM

Well THEDOO, the Congress doesn't have a "PHONE AND A PEN" to make illegal laws by whim, so they have nothing to do with this. THIS is entirely Mr. Obama's legacy....THE HEAD OF A JOURNALIST!
http://www.latimes.com/la-oe-ehrenstein19mar19-story.html

Flag Reply +1 rate up
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