American Held in Syria Has Been Freed

WASHINGTON (AP) - An American journalist kidnapped and held hostage for about two years by an al-Qaida-linked group in Syria was released Sunday less than a week after the horrific execution of American journalist James Foley by Islamic terrorists.

The freed American is Peter Theo Curtis of Massachusetts. He wrote under the byline Theo Padnos, officials and family members said.

White House national security adviser Susan Rice said Curtis is now safe outside of Syria. Secretary of State John Kerry said Curtis was held by an al-Qaida-linked terrorist group fighting the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

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 spoke on the condition of anonymity.

“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.”

Kerry, a former senator from Massachusetts, voiced relief and gratitude for Curtis’ release, “particularly after a week marked by unspeakable tragedy.”

“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 said.

The Islamic State and the al-Qaida linked group that had held Curtis have split and parted ways. U.S. officials say the Islamic State is the far more ruthless organization.