Family appeals for release of reporter kidnapped in Syria
The family of an American reporter who contributed videos to Agence France-Presse (AFP) appealed for his release on Tuesday, the two-month anniversary of his kidnapping in Syria.
James Foley, 39, an experienced war reporter who also freelanced for US-based media outlets, was seized by armed men in the northern province of Idlib on November 22, according to witnesses.
AFP presented a letter Monday evening in Damascus to Syrian Information Minister Omran al Zohabi addressed to President Bashar al-Assad, seeking his assistance in finding Foley.
"I am seeking your assistance in a matter of a purely humanitarian nature," AFP chairman Emmanuel Hoog said in the letter to Assad.
"I humbly request that you intervene on his behalf and do everything in your power to shed light on his fate and to obtain his release, in the name of freedom of expression and of the press," he said.
The Syrian minister, receiving the letter, promised to do all possible but said that "conditions are difficult" in the region where Foley was kidnapped.
Foley's family appealed for any information on him, describing him as an unbiased professional journalist with a compassionate heart.
"He was trying to tell the world what is happening in Syria and certainly he didn't mean anything malicious to anybody. He grew to have real respect and care about the Syrian people," said his father, John Foley.
"We would really appeal to the captors to realize that he is an innocent independent journalist seeking to be quite objective," he said.
Foley said that the family was thankful for support but was frustrated by the lack of details on their son, including even knowing who was holding him.
"It's a total helplessness. We always worry about Jimmy's condition and what circumstances he's in and what his mental status would be and what he'll be like when he comes home -- and we refuse to believe anything else, that he won't come home," his father said.
"We appeal to anyone for information -- anyone who has seen him or heard of him in that area," he said.
Foley, who has contributed around 30 video stories to AFP since late March 2012, was seized in the town of Taftanaz by four men who later released his driver and translator, witnesses said.
No group has claimed responsibility for the abductions and the motivation was unclear. Syria has been wracked by a bloody civil war for nearly two years since rebels launched an uprising against Assad.
Large parts of northern Syria are controlled by anti-Assad rebel groups that form part of the Free Syrian Army or are made up of jihadists, including foreign fighters.
Foley also contributed to the US-based international news website GlobalPost and to major US TV channels.
In 2011, Foley was kidnapped and held for six weeks by forces loyal to slain Libyan dictator Moamer Kadhafi as he covered the war in the north African country.
At the time, he was working for GlobalPost which was involved in his rescue and which is standing by his family in the latest incident.
At least 20 reporters have died covering the conflict in Syria as conditions become increasingly perilous, according to a count by AFP and Paris-based media watchdog Reporters Without Borders.