US journalist released in Syria, Kerry confirms

 

Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday confirmed the release of Peter Theo Curtis, an American journalist who was captured in Syria in 2012. 

Kerry said the Boston-based journalist had been held by the group al-Nusra Front, an al Qaeda affiliate in Syria. Curtis is safe outside of Syria and is expected to be reunited with his family shortly, the White House said.

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"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 in a statement. 

The move comes less than a week after the beheading of U.S. photojournalist James Foley at the hands of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a separate organization that has broken with al Qaeda. 

After the video surfaced of Foley, the United States revealed an unsuccessful operation earlier this summer that attempted to free Foley and others held by ISIS.

Kerry did not describe the details of Curtis's release. The United Nations announced it facilitated the handover that took place Saturday. Curtis had a check-up and handed over to U.S. officials.

The Curtis family thanked the United States and Qatar for helping negotiate the release.

"Every waking hour, our thoughts and our faith remain with the Americans still held hostage and with their families, and we continue to use every diplomatic, intelligence, and military tool at our disposal to find them and bring our fellow citizens home," Kerry said.

White House national security adviser Susan Rice celebrated the release but said the United States will continue to use all resources to makes sure other hostages are released. 

Curtis was the cellmate of U.S. photojournalist Matthew Schrier, who escaped in 2013, according to The New York Times. Schrier snuck our of an opening in the wall, but Curtis could not fit through and urged Schrier to go alone, according to the Times.

A video was released of Curtis on June 30, in which he read from a script saying he was treated fine. However, Schrier told the Times the two were tortured while held captive.

"Notwithstanding today’s welcome news, the events of the past week shocked the conscience of the world," Rice said. "As President Obama said, we have and will continue to use all of the tools at our disposal to see that the remaining American hostages are freed."

In the ISIS video released last week, the militant group revealed U.S. journalist Steven Sotloff was also in its custody. The group threatened his life if the United States did not end its air campaign in Iraq. 

The Times has reported ISIS is threatening to kill at least three other hostages.

The Committee to Protect Journalists estimates about 80 journalists have been kidnapped in Syria since the war began. It estimates approximately 20 remain missing.

— This report was updated at 3:50 p.m.

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