American journalist held captive in Syria released to Israeli Golan Heights

Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — An American journalist held hostage in Syria by a group affiliated with al-Qaida was released to the Israeli Golan Heights.

Peter Theo Curtis, who wrote under the byline Theo Padnos, was released Sunday to United Nations peacekeeping forces on the Golan Heights, and reportedly was taken from there to Tel Aviv by U.S. diplomats. Curtis reportedly was taken hostage in October 2012, shortly after crossing into Syria.

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Curtis was held by Jabhat Al-Nusrah, an al-Qaida–linked group currently among the rebels fighting a three-year-long civil war with government forces led by Syrian President Bashar Assad.

His release comes days after the spread of a video by the Islamist group ISIS showing the beheading of American journalist James Foley, who was kidnapped in Syria in 2012. The execution of Foley was called by the terrorists a warning to President Obama after U.S. airstrikes in Iraq.

“Over these last two years, the United States 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,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement issued after the release was concluded.

“Every waking hour, our thoughts and our faith remain with the Americans still held hostage and with their families, and we continue to use every diplomatic, intelligence, and military tool at our disposal to find them and bring our fellow citizens home,” Kerry said.