Peter Theo Curtis was turned over to UN peacekeepers in Quneitra in the Golan Heights on Sunday after being seized by militants while traveling into Syria to report on the conflict there in October 2012.
The Qatari government announced late on Sunday that it had secured Curtis’s release, issuing a statement saying it had “exerted relentless efforts to release the American journalist out of Qatar’s belief in the principles of humanity and out of concern for the lives of individuals and their right to freedom and dignity.”
Following his release, Curtis’s family issued a statement saying it was “deeply grateful to the governments of the United States and Qatar and to the many individuals, private and public, who helped negotiate the release of our son, brother and cousin.”
During his captivity, Curtis is believed to have appeared in two videos released by his captors. The second was released in July, and showed him seated with his hands bound. Reading from a written statement, Curtis pleaded with the US and European governments to contact an intermediary on his behalf. “They have given me three days to live,” he said. “If you don’t do anything, I’m finished. I’m dead. They will kill me. Three days. You have had 20 days, and you’ve done nothing.”
In the statement released by his family, Curtis’s mother Nancy, called on militant groups in Syria to release their other hostages, adding: “While the family is not privy to the exact terms that were negotiated, we were repeatedly told by representatives of the Qatari government that they were mediating for Theo’s release on a humanitarian basis without the payment of money.”
Following Curtis’s release, US Secretary of State John Kerry issued a statement saying: “After a week marked by unspeakable tragedy, we are all relieved and grateful knowing that Theo Curtis is coming home after so much time held in the clutches of [the Al-Nusra Front].”
Curtis, a 45-year-old native of Boston, was released only days after the grisly on-camera execution of another American journalist, James Foley, by militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
A video, which appeared to show Foley being beheaded by a masked British member of the organization, was posted on the Internet last week, in retaliation for US airstrikes on ISIS targets in Iraq.
According to the international non-governmental organization, the Committee to Protect Journalists, Foley and Curtis were among 80 journalists known to have been kidnapped in Syria over the previous three years, of whom around 20 are still missing.