After being held prisoner by Syrian terrorists for two years, Peter Theo Curtis, an American journalist, was freed Sunday. Curtis, who was held by the terrorist group Jabhat Al-Nusra, was released from captivity to the United Nations (UN) peacekeepers in the Syrian village of Al Rafid.
The American received a check-up from UN medical staff prior to being handed over to United States officials. The release of Curtis came days after fellow American journalist James Foley was put to death by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Foley had also been held for two years after being kidnapped by ISIS. However, in retribution for U.S. attacks in Iraq, ISIS executed Foley.
The two years that Curtis was a captive of Jabhat Al-Nusra, his family had worked with the U.S. State Department to try to bring the journalist home. According to Secretary of State John Kerry, Curtis’ mother, Nancy, worked with the State Department throughout the horrific time, refusing to give up and keep alive the hope that her son would be returned safe and alive.
Ransom demands as high as $25 million were sent to Curtis’ family from the Syrian terrorists for the freedom of the American journalist. To bring Curtis home, the U.S. had reached out to over two dozen nations for help. U.S. representative to the UN, Samantha Power assisted the Curtis family in connecting with the government of Qatari. Qatari had assisted the U.S. previously in communicating with Jabhat Al-Nusra, however the U.S. informed the terrorist group that they would not pay the $25 million ransom.
In a communication with the terrorist group, the U.S. officials and Curtis’ family demanded proof of life. Questions that only could be answered by Curtis that no one could have searched the internet to find the answers to fake a proof of life response were difficult to come up with. Curtis’ mother struggled because, at 45-years-old, mothers are not as privileged to know the intimate details of their children’s lives as it was when they were still young. After a while, Nancy Curtis was able to provide the needed question to prove her son was still alive.
The family had previously received a video showing Curtis begging for his life. The FBI had told the family that they likely would not want to see the tape. The FBI feared that seeing their son in a state of torture and nothing the mother could do may have been too much for the family to handle.
Qatari, working under the request of the U.S. to not pay any ransom, were successful with the negotiations and secured an agreement with the terrorists to release Curtis on Sunday. While the U.S. asked that no ransom be paid, the details of how Qatari officials were able to secure the release of the American is unknown. However, soon after his release, Curtis was able to speak briefly with his mother before the UN handed him to U.S. officials.
According to Susan E. Rice, the National Security Advisor, Curtis and his family will be together soon. Nancy Curtis relayed her thanks to the many who helped secure her son’s release after such a long time, saying that the family “will be eternally grateful.”
According to both Rice and Kerry, the U.S. is tirelessly working to return captured American’s that are being held hostage by terrorist groups in Syria home to America. There has been no word on what the U.S. is currently attempting to secure the release of Steven Sotloff, the American journalist being held by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria terrorists. Sotloff was seen for the first time in two-years in the video of Foley’s execution at the hands of ISIS and has been implied that if the U.S. does not pull completely out of Iraq, the journalist will suffer the same fate as Foley.
By Carl Auer