Family of journalist taken hostage in Syria appeal for immediate release

 

An American photojournalist remains missing in Syria after being kidnapped by gunmen more than a month ago.

The disappearance of James Foley has not hitherto been publicised because of fears that it may jeopardise his chances of being freed. However, his family has now set up a website to campaign for his release while urging his abductors to make contact.

Mr Foley, 39, is one of a number of members of the international media who have been captured or killed while reporting on the 22-month-long civil war. As well as those missing, 28 journalists have died in the past 12 months, making Syria one of the most dangerous assignments in the world, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Most of those journalists were covering the conflict in areas where the fiercest fighting had taken place, having entered Syria undercover. Mr Foley was travelling in a car in Idlib province when, according to witnesses, it was stopped by another vehicle and fighters emerged firing Kalashnikov rifles into the air.

Searches carried out by rebel groups, who had helped to free two other journalists kidnapped in the same area last summer, have failed to locate him. Members of these groups are also believed to have negotiated with representatives of the men who may be holding him, but without success.

John Foley, the missing journalist's father, said: "We want Jim to come safely home, or at least we need to speak with him to know he's OK. 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."

James Foley was captured along with two other journalists in 2011 by Gaddafi's forces in Libya; a third journalist who was with them, outside the city of Brega in the east of the country, was killed. Mr Foley and the other captives were freed in Tripoli several months later.

In Syria, another American freelance journalist, Austin Tice, disappeared in August while with a rebel group near Damascus. A video appeared subsequently purporting to show him in the hands of foreign jihadists who have joined the revolution. But there is strong suspicion that he is, in fact, being held by regime forces. Richard Engel, an NBC News correspondent was kidnapped along with three members of his team, also in Idlib, last December by, he said, a pro-Assad militia. They were freed after their captors were engaged in a firefight by rebel fighters.

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