Boston (AFP) – A U.S. journalist taken hostage by Al-Qaeda-linked militants in Syria thanked those who supported him during his two years in captivity Wednesday, saying he was “just overwhelmed with emotion.”
Peter Theo Curtis, 45, made a brief statement to reporters outside his mother Nancy Curtis’s house in Cambridge, Massachusets, the morning after his return home.
“I had no idea when I was in prison .. that so much effort was being expended on my behalf,” he said. “Now having found out, I am just overwhelmed with emotion.”
Curtis, who arrived in Boston on Tuesday from Tel Aviv after having been released to UN peacekeepers, said he was taken aback by the many total strangers who came up to him to welcome him back.
“I suddenly remember how good the American people are and what kindness they have in their hearts and to all those people, I say a huge thank you from my heart, from the bottom of my heart,” he said.
The freelance journalist and author was released on Sunday, less than a week after grisly footage emerged of the execution of another U.S. hostage, journalist James Foley, by the so-called Islamic State — a separate group from the one that held Curtis.
The group has also threatened to kill a second captive American journalist, Steven Sotloff, if U.S. President Barack Obama did not change course.
And, according to U.S. media reports, the group is also holding a third American, a 26-year-old female aid worker.
Curtis’s family has said the Qatari government had repeatedly reassured them that it had not won his freedom through a cash payment, amid a growing debate over the U.S. policy of refusing to pay ransoms to extremist groups.
Washington sticks to a policy of never paying ransoms, saying that doing so would endanger Americans all over the world.
“I am overwhelmed with relief that this day has come and my son is standing beside me. But this is a sober occasion because of the events of the past week. My heart goes out to the other families who are suffering,” Nancy Curtis said on her son’s arrival Tuesday.
“I would like to thank the many public and private individuals all over the world who have worked so hard to bring Theo home.”
Curtis was captured shortly before he crossed into Syria in October 2012 and was held by the Al-Qaeda splinter group known as Al-Nusra front, according to his family.
During his captivity, media outlets had refrained from using Curtis’s name at the request of the family.
After his return to the United States, the family requested privacy.
“We greatly appreciated the support of the press while Theo was in captivity,” Nancy said.
“We now ask for some private time to adjust. Theo will be the best person to tell his story when he is ready.”
Curtis was handed over to UN peacekeepers in the Golan Heights late Sunday and taken to Tel Aviv by U.S. government officials.
The Islamic State and Al-Nusra are rooted in Al-Qaeda in Iraq but the two groups have been openly at war with each other in Syria since early this year.