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US hostage released in Syria after two years

Peter Theo Curtis is believed to have been released in the Golan Heights region.

In this image made from undated video obtained by The Associated Press, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, a man believed to be Peter Theo Curtis, a U.S. citizen held hostage by an al-Qaida linked group in Syria, delivers a statement.
In this image made from undated video obtained by The Associated Press, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, a man believed to be Peter Theo Curtis, a U.S. citizen held hostage by an al-Qaida linked group in Syria, delivers a statement.
Image: Apexchange

AS THE US 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-Qaeda-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.

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.

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.

Before being met by American officials, Curtis was handed over to UN forces in the Golan Heights, where Irish Defence Forces are currently stationed. However, a spokesperson for the Defence Forces said there was no Irish involvement in the operation.

Associated Press. Additional reporting, Daragh Brophy.

Read: James Foley wrote a letter to his family while in captivity and it’s beautiful

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