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Executed New Hampshire Journalist was Steadfast in Face of Danger

Photo:Manu Brabo

ROCHESTER, New Hampshire - A New Hampshire photojournalist who was abducted by Islamic militants in Syria has been killed by his captors. James Foley disappeared two years ago while on assignment in Syria for the GlobalPost. Little information about him has surfaced since. On Tuesday, a video released by the Islamic State showed Foley being executed. Patty Wight has more on who James Foley was, and what happened to him.


This was not the first time James Foley had been in danger while covering conflict. He had been embedded with with U.S. forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, and reporting on the civil war in Libya. It was there in 2011 that he and two other journalists were detained and held captive for nearly five weeks. Foley recalled the experience as a guest on NPR's Talk of the Nation, soon after returning home.

"We were blindfolded, and our hands were tied in a small sedan and it was an excruciating ride," he said. "And it was scary as well because we were harassed at different checkpoints, having no idea where we were."

Foley said that terror shifted to tedium and worry during the long days that he was held captive. "It was incredibly boring. We couldn't go outside. And we spent so much time trying to piece together what was going to happen next, which was very difficult."

After 44 days, Foley was released. While recuperating in the U.S., he gave many interviews about his experience and spoke on a panel discussion at his alma mater, Marquette University. He said he recognized the inherent danger reporting in conflict zones, especially as a freelance journalist.

"You know, the fact of the matter is in a place like Libya or a war zone you don't have the same resources," he said. "So basically that means you don't have the same ability to move around, the same ability to get translation when you need it. And it becomes a safety issue."

Despite the dangers, Foley said he was determined to go back to tell personal stories about places in turmoil. "You know, we can't just show fireworks. We can't just show things blowing up," he said. "We have to show the effects of how people die, and how people are displaced from their homes, the effects on families that don't come home."

Foley returned to Libya, and later went to Syria to report on the civil war for the GlobalPost. On Thanksgiving Day in 2012 he was abducted. His family announced his abduction in January, and launched an online campaign to bring him home.

They received little word of their son until a video was released this week by Islamic militants. In it, a man whose face is covered, beheads Foley, and says that the act is in retaliation against U.S. air strikes in Iraq.

The authenticity of the video was confirmed Wednesday, and Foley's parents held a press conference at their home in Rochester, New Hampshire. Diane Foley says her son was courageous to the end.

"Jim was innocent, and they knew it," she said. "They knew that Jim was a symbol for our country, and it's that hatred that Jim was against."

Foley's father John called his son "a martyr of freedom."

"Jimmy did his work," he said. "So it's up to others to pick up the ball and go forward. You know, it really is. Our government, other foreign governments. It's just, how long are we going to tolerate all of this?"

John and Diane Foley asked for compassion for another U.S. journalist, Steven Sotloff, who also appeared in the video of their son's execution. Sotloff's fate, according to his captors, depends on U.S. actions in Iraq.

Syria ranks as the most dangerous country for journalists, according to The Committee to Protect Journalists. Since January of 2012, 66 journalists have been killed.  and now, it's 67.