TIME Syria

American Held Captive by al-Qaeda Affiliate Freed After Nearly 2 Years

Still frame taken from video shows U.S. journalist Peter Theo Curtis, who has been freed by kidnappers in Syria
U.S. journalist Peter Theo Curtis is shown in this undated still frame taken from video courtesy of al-Jazeera on Aug. 24, 2014 Al Jazeera/Reuters

Peter Theo Curtis' release comes days after the execution of American photojournalist James Foley

An American journalist kidnapped and held by an al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria has been freed, the U.S. said Sunday, ending his nearly two years in captivity.

Peter Theo Curtis was abducted in Antakya, Turkey, from where he planned to enter Syria in October 2012, al-Jazeera reports. He was being held by Al-Nusra Front in Syria before his release.

The U.N. facilitated Curtis’ release, it said Sunday, though it remains unclear where Curtis was exchanged.

U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice said Sunday that Curtis “will be reunited with his family shortly.” In a separate statement, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that “for two years, this young American has been separated from his family. Finally he is returning home.”

“Theo’s mother, whom we’ve known from Massachusetts and with whom we’ve worked during this horrific period, simply refused to give up and has worked indefatigably to keep hope alive that this day could be a reality,” Kerry added.

Curtis’ mother Nancy said in a press release Sunday: “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.”

“Please know that we will be eternally grateful,” added Nancy, who also asked for privacy for her family.

Curtis was imprisoned along with American photojournalist Matthew Schrier, who was held for seven months before escaping in July 2013. Schrier has said he was tortured and starved by his jailers, and described being beaten on the soles of his feet until he could no longer walk.

Curtis’ release comes days after the beheading of American photojournalist James Foley, who was executed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria, or ISIS. The U.S. revealed this week it attempted a military rescue mission to save Foley and other Americans but failed to bring them back.

Kerry said in his statement that the U.S. tried many different avenues to obtain Curtis’ release, and that Washington continues to use “every diplomatic, intelligence and military tool” to bring American citizens home.

“Over these last two years, the United States 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,” Kerry said.

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