US & Canada

Syria ex-hostage Peter Theo Curtis 'overwhelmed' by support

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Media captionPeter Theo Curtis: "I had no idea that so much effort was being expended on my behalf"

US journalist Peter Theo Curtis, who was taken hostage in Syria, has said he is "overwhelmed by emotion" at how many people helped his released.

Mr Curtis, 45, was released on Sunday after being held captive for almost two years by al-Nusra Front militants.

"I had no idea so much effort was being expended on my behalf," Mr Curtis said.

US officials had worked with more than 12 countries to help secure his release, which came days after a US journalist was beheaded in Syria.

"In the days following my release on Sunday, I have learned bit-by-bit that there have been literally hundreds of people - brave, determined and big-hearted people - all over the world working for my release," Mr Curtis said, speaking outside his family's home in Boston.

He said since returning late on Tuesday, total strangers had been welcoming him back and telling him they were glad he was home.

"I suddenly remember how good the American people are and what kindness they have in their hearts," he said.

'Unspeakable tragedy'

On 20 August, the Islamic State (IS) group in Syria released a widely condemned video of the beheading of James Foley, 40, who was seized in 2012.

UK secret services are reportedly close to identifying a suspected British jihadist from the footage of that killing.

On Tuesday, Mr Curtis's mother said she was "overwhelmed with relief" after speaking to her son.

She said she had immediately written to James Foley's mother, Diane.

"We've been through so much together, and I didn't want her to hear it from the media first," Nancy Curtis told ABC from her home in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Mrs Curtis said the FBI had received a video of her son last month, saying he had three days left to live
Image copyright AP
Image caption US journalist James Foley was beheaded by the Islamist State group in Syria last week

Mr Curtis was reportedly abducted in Turkey on his way to Syria.

The United Nations confirmed that it had helped in his release, and that the journalist was handed over to UN peacekeepers in the Golan Heights.

After an initial health check, he was then transferred to US government representatives.

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Media captionThe church was "completely packed" for the James Foley memorial, reports Barbara Plett Usher

The news of Mr Curtis's release on Sunday came as a memorial service was being held for Foley in his hometown of Rochester in New Hampshire.

Foley was abducted in November 2012. He had reported across the Middle East, working for US publication GlobalPost and other media outlets.

The Islamic State

Image copyright AFP
Image caption IS is in many ways a cross between a state and a military and ideological group
  • Formed out of al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) in 2013, IS first captured Raqqa in eastern Syria
  • By early 2014, it controlled Falluja in western Iraq
  • Has since captured broad swathes of Iraq, seizing the northern city of Mosul in June
  • Fighting has displaced at least 1.2 million Iraqis
  • Pursuing an extreme form of Sunni Islam, IS has persecuted non-Muslims such as Yazidis and Christians, as well as Shia Muslims, whom it regards as heretics
  • In July alone, IS expanded dramatically, recruiting some 6,300 new fighters largely in Raqqa, an activist monitoring group said

Who are Islamic State (IS)?

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