Watch CBS News

Mass. Man Freed After Two Years Held Hostage In Syria

WASHINGTON (CBS/AP) – The U.S. government says a Massachusetts man held hostage for about two years by an al-Qaida-linked group in Syria has been released.

The Obama administration identifies the man as Peter Theo Curtis.

National security adviser Susan Rice says Curtis is now safe outside of Syria and is expected to be reunited with his family shortly.

The United Nations said it helped with the handover to U.N. peacekeepers in a village in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights and that Curtis was released to American authorities after a medical checkup.

The administration provided no details about the circumstances of his abduction or his release. It was not known what prompted Curtis' release.

In a statement issued after his release, the Curtis family said he is a published author and freelance journalist from Boston and Vermont who writes under the name Theo Padnos.

"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," said Curtis' mother, Nancy Curtis, of Cambridge, Mass. "Please know that we will be eternally grateful."

"We are so relieved that Theo is healthy and safe and that he is finally headed home after his ordeal, but we are also deeply saddened by the terrible, unjustified killing last week of his fellow journalist, Jim Foley, at the hands of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, ISIS," she said.

She said the family does not know the exact terms that were negotiated for her son's release but said they were repeatedly told by Qatari government representatives that they were "mediating for his release on a humanitarian basis without the payment of money."

Secretary of State John Kerry said Jabhat al-Nusrah, an al-Qaida-linked militant group fighting the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad, had held Curtis.

"For two years, this young American has been separated from his family," Kerry said in a statement. "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."

The news comes days after the Islamic State group posted a web video showing the murder of Foley, a New Hampshire journalist who was kidnapped in 2012 while covering the Syrian uprising.

The group said the killing was in retaliation for U.S. airstrikes in northern Iraq.

Rice referred to the execution of Foley in her statement on Curtis' release.

"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."

Nancy Curtis said she had gotten to know the Foley family, "during these many long months of uncertainty and worry, and have seen Diane Foley's bravery and her heroic efforts firsthand, efforts that helped rally the spirits of the families of all the journalists and others being held captive. We appeal to the captors of the remaining hostages to release them in the same humanitarian spirit that prompted Theo's release."

She added: "My entire focus right now is on helping the other families of those still being held in Syria, and on taking care of my son."

(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.