American journalist kidnapped in Syria

January 03, 2013 - 1:44:55 am

Buildings damaged by what activists said were missiles fired by a Syrian Air Force fighter jet in Binsh near Idlib yesterday. 

BEIRUT: An American journalist has been missing in Syria since he was kidnapped more than one month ago, his family said yesterday, less than two years after he was held by government forces in Libya while covering that country’s 

civil war.

The family of James Foley, of Rochester, NH, said he was kidnapped in northwest Syria by unknown gunmen on Thanksgiving Day.

Foley, 39, has worked in a number of conflict zones around the Middle East, including Syria, Libya and Iraq. He was contributing videos to Agence France-Press (AFP) while in Syria.

Foley’s disappearance highlights the risks to reporters seeking to cover the civil war from inside Syria.

The Syrian government rarely gives visas to journalists and often limits the movements of those it allows in. This has prompted a number of reporters to sneak into the country with the rebels fighting to topple President Bashar Al Assad. Some have been killed or wounded while others have disappeared.

Foley and another journalist were working in the northern province of Idlib when they were kidnapped near the village of Taftanaz on November 22. He had entered Syria a short time earlier.

Media outlets refrained from reporting on Foley’s kidnapping until his family released its statement. The other reporter’s family has requested that that reporter’s name not be made public.

Foley’s family said they have not heard from him since.

“We want Jim to come safely home, or at least we need to speak with him to know he’s OK,” said his father, John Foley, in the online statement. “Jim is an objective journalist and we appeal for the release of Jim unharmed. To the people who have Jim, please contact us so we can work together toward his release.”

The Chairman of AFP, Emmanuel Hoog, said in a statement that the news agency was doing all it could to get Foley released.

“James is a professional journalist who has remained totally neutral in this conflict,” Hoog said. 

“His captors, whoever they may be, must release him immediately.”