UK & World News

  • 27 August 2014, 17:55

Syria Hostage Peter Theo Curtis 'OverWhelmed'

An American journalist held hostage in Syria for almost two years has thanked the hundreds of "brave and determined people" who helped secure his release.

In his first public remarks since touching down in the US, Peter Theo Curtis said: "I had no idea when I was in prison that so much effort was being expended on my behalf.

"Now that I have found out I am just overwhelmed with emotion."

Mr Curtis, 45, was reunited with his mother Nancy after landing back on home soil on Tuesday.

The reporter, originally from Boston, was released by al Qaeda's official wing in Syria, al Nusra Front, two days earlier after 22 months in captivity.

His voice trembling at times, Mr Curtis told reporters that total strangers had been coming up to him and saying: "We are glad you are home, welcome home, I'm glad you are back, glad you are safe."

"To all those people I say a huge thank you from the bottom of my heart," he said.

His former cellmate, a US photographer, has previously said their captors tortured Mr Curtis by whipping the soles of his feet with a cable.

Shortly after being reunited with her son, Nancy Curtis told reporters he was "so excited to be home".

She said while she was "overwhelmed with relief", his arrival home was a "sober occasion", given recent events in Syria.

Fears had risen for Mr Curtis over the last month after the FBI revealed it had received a video of him pleading for his life, saying he had just three days to live.

Qatar, whose diplomacy helped free him, is believed to be working to free remaining hostages in Syria.

Mr Curtis' release came days after the execution of fellow journalist James Foley, who was captured by al Nusra's rivals, the militant group Islamic State (IS), in 2012.

IS posted a video showing the beheading of Mr Foley, which they said was in retaliation for US airstrikes on IS positions in northern Iraq.

The group also threatened to kill another American journalist in their captivity, Stephen Sotloff.

His mother, Shirley Sotloff, made an emotional and rare public appeal for his release on Wednesday, in a video broadcast on the al-Arabiya channel.

"Steven is a journalist who travelled to the Middle East to cover the suffering of Muslims at the hands of tyrants," said Ms Sotloff, who lives in the Miami area.

"Steven is a loyal and generous son, brother and grandson. He is an honourable man and has always tried to help the weak."

She added: "Since Stephen's capture, I've learned a lot about Islam. I've learned that Islam teaches that no individual should be held responsible for the sins of others.

"Stephen has no control over the actions of the US government. He's an innocent journalist."

The US has been preparing military options in Syria, including surveillance flights, in an effort to eradicate IS. 

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