American freelance journalist Peter Theo Curtis has been released by the al-Qaida linked group that held him hostage for nearly two years in Syria, the White House said Sunday.
The release of Curtis to United Nations representatives by the Jabhat al-Nusrah Front terrorist group came five days after the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant released a video of the beheading of journalist James Foley, 40, of Rochester, N.H.
The Al-Nusrah Front, one of several groups battling the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, reportedly has been fighting ISIL in eastern Syria in recent months.
ISIL had demanded 100 million euros ($132.5 million) for the release of Foley. There were no immediate reports of ransom demands for Curtis.
A video released in June by Al Jazeera showed Curtis appearing to be in good health with long hair and a beard. Reading from what appeared to be a prepared script; Curtis identified himself as a journalist from Boston. He said he had everything he needed, and "everything has been perfect -- food, clothing, even friends now."
Curtis was released to U.N. officials in a Golan Heights village in Israel, the Associated Press reported. After a brief medical checkup, Curtis was turned over to U.S. authorities in Israel and reportedly was in good health.
Curtis reportedly was abducted in October 2012 in Antakya, Turkey, a border town that has served as a transfer point for the shipment of aid and arms to rebel groups in Syria.
"He seems to be in good health," Viva Hardigg, Curtis' cousin, told the AP. "We are deeply relieved and grateful for his return and the many people who have helped us secure his freedom. At the same time, we are thinking constantly of the other hostages who are still held and those working to help them be freed."
Dozens of journalists and aid workers have gone missing since the Syrian civil war began in March 2011.
"Finally, he is returning home," Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement. During Curtis' captivity, the U.S. had "reached out to more than two dozen countries asking for urgent help from anyone who might have tools, influence, or leverage to help secure Theo's release and the release of any Americans held hostage in Syria."
National Security Adviser Susan Rice said in a statement that "we join his family and loved ones in welcoming his freedom. Theo is now safe outside of Syria, and we expect he will be reunited with his family shortly."
In a reference to Foley's murder, Rice added that "notwithstanding today's welcome news, the events of the past week shocked the conscience of the world."
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@monster.com.