WASHINGTON — An American journalist held for nearly two years by militants linked to Al-Qaeda in Syria returned to the United States late Tuesday, two days after Qatar negotiated his release, his family said.
Peter Theo Curtis, 45, was reunited with his mother Nancy Curtis at Boston Logan International Airport after flying from Tel Aviv to Newark, New Jersey.
“I have been so touched and moved, beyond all words, by the people who have come up to me today — strangers on the airplane, the flight attendants and, most of all, my family — to say welcome home,” Curtis said in a statement.
“I am also deeply indebted to the US officials who have worked on my case. I especially want to thank the government of Qatar for intervening on my behalf.”
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 US 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.
The freelance journalist and author was released on Sunday, less than a week after grisly footage emerged of the execution of another US hostage, journalist James Foley, by the Islamic State — a separate group from the one that held Curtis.
‘Overwhelmed with relief’
“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.
“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 US 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.