Posts Tagged ‘Israel grossman attorney Information’

Before Leaving Afghanistan, U.S. Troops Must Declutter

Uncategorized | Posted by Israel Grossman Attorney
Aug 28 2014

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A construction excavator demolishes a B-hut at the huge Bagram Air Field north of Kabul. The military used the structures as bunks and offices during the 13-year war but is tearing them down as most of the military prepares to leave by year’s end.

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A construction excavator demolishes a B-hut at the huge Bagram Air Field north of Kabul. The military used the structures as bunks and offices during the 13-year war but is tearing them down as most of the military prepares to leave by year's end.

A construction excavator demolishes a B-hut at the huge Bagram Air Field north of Kabul. The military used the structures as bunks and offices during the 13-year war but is tearing them down as most of the military prepares to leave by year’s end.

Sean Carberry/NPR

Sgt. 1st Class Tom Albert is with the Army’s 2nd Engineers at the massive Bagram Air Field north of Kabul, and he’s overseeing operation Clean Sweep here. It’s a huge job, because American troops and equipment are scheduled to be out of Bagram and other bases by the end of the year.

The U.S. and Afghanistan are still trying to work out a deal that would allow nearly 10,000 military personnel to stay, but even that would be just a fraction of the force that’s been here for the past 13 years.

Soldiers are in the process of tearing down small wooden barracks known in military speak as B-huts. Some of these huts have been standing here at Bagram since the earliest days of the war.

“There’s probably around 400 B-huts left [on the Bagram Air Field] right now that need to be torn down,” Albert says.

One is a B-hut nestled against the concrete barriers that line the airfield. Albert says it’s too cramped here to fit an excavator. “We can tear down eight B-huts a day by excavator, and this right here is going to take about a week to tear down by hand,” he says.

Even though these B-huts were originally built as short-term housing, they’ve weathered more than a decade of use as bunks and offices.

Staff Sgt. Dominic Koehl with the 304th Engineers out of Lima, Ohio, is leading the crew doing the deconstruction.

“A lot of this wood can easily be reused — it’s practically brand new,” Koehl says.

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A shipping container is filled with excess equipment and supplies in March as the U.S. military draws down in Afghanistan.

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A shipping container is filled with excess equipment and supplies  in March as the U.S. military draws down in Afghanistan.

A shipping container is filled with excess equipment and supplies in March as the U.S. military draws down in Afghanistan.

Scott Olson/Getty Images

Tearing the hut down by hand means more of the wood can be recycled and given to Afghans.

Koehl’s unit is actually deployed to Kuwait to build up U.S. facilities there, but two companies have been lent out to Bagram for this tear-down mission.

“We were more than willing to come up here and use our construction knowledge to put it to good use here,” he says, adding that while it’s fun to build, it’s even more fun to tear down.

Across the base is a lot covered with 25 graying B-huts. Sgt. William Mesing is in charge of knocking those down.

“When we first got this project, we started seeing some signatures on the walls. A lot of them were dated back to ’04,” he says.

And once they clear out the wiring and other reusable materials, they bring in the excavator. The raptorlike claw of the John Deere machine quickly chews up a B-hut and spits out the debris into a growing pile. Mesing says it’s a lot of fun to spend his days knocking down B-huts.

“You can definitely get some stress out of your system,” he says. “But at the end of the day, then you look at the pile of mess you’ve got to pick up, then it’s kind of like, ‘Oh, man.’ “

And a few hundred yards away, another crew is carrying out the cleanup part of Operation Clean Sweep.

Sgt. Robert Duncan of the 876th Engineer Company says its job is to clean up debris and return the land on the base to its natural state. “We’ve found anything from commode seats to engine blocks out here,” he says. “You name it, we found it.”

Duncan says they’ve cleared about six football fields’ worth of trash and debris and have about four more to go for now.

And while crews are busy knocking things down and clearing away years of debris, there is still new construction going on here.

A few years ago, the military was anticipating a sizable troop presence in the country for years to come. But President Obama has since declared that most will be gone by the end of the year, and only 10,000 troops will stay two more years. That has changed plans for Bagram.

“Some of those things are either built or we’re finishing building them because it’s too late to change that plan,” says Maj. Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander of NATO forces in eastern Afghanistan. He acknowledges that some of the new structures are overbuilt for the future mission as planned now.

“We’ve actually canceled some projects, and we’ve scaled back,” he says.

Like A NASCAR Pit Crew

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Armored vehicles known as M-ATVs are lined up on the tarmac at Bagram Air Field. They will be flown out to the Persian Gulf on cargo planes and then shipped back to the U.S.

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Armored vehicles known as M-ATVs are lined up on the tarmac at Bagram Air Field. They will be flown out to the Persian Gulf on cargo planes and then shipped back to the U.S.

Armored vehicles known as M-ATVs are lined up on the tarmac at Bagram Air Field. They will be flown out to the Persian Gulf on cargo planes and then shipped back to the U.S.

Sean Carberry/NPR

But Bagram still can’t shrink too much. Other smaller bases are collapsing, and personnel and equipment are temporarily moving here as units sort out what will be scrapped, given to the Afghans or sent home.

Sending things home is the job of Air Force Maj. Chris Carmichael, commander of the 455th Expeditionary Aerial Port Squadron. He’s overseeing the air transport of personnel and cargo out of the country.

“We’re the busiest aerial port in the Department of Defense,” Carmichael says.

Here on the edge of Bagram’s airfield are dozens of M-ATVs — giant armored tactical vehicles — waiting to be loaded onto C-17 cargo planes.

“All of it is pretty much going back to the U.S. It’ll probably be stored for future wars,” he says.

Many other armored vehicles still remaining in Afghanistan are not fit for future use and are being shredded. And some 200 will be handed over to Afghan forces.

Others will fly to U.S. bases in the Persian Gulf, where they will be later loaded on ships heading to the U.S. This form of transport is more complicated and expensive than the mission to remove cargo and tactical vehicles like MRAPs (Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected armored personnel vehicles) out of Iraq.

“In Iraq you could easily just drive the MRAPs right into Kuwait,” Carmichael says.

But driving vehicles and cargo out of Afghanistan requires traveling dangerous routes through Pakistan to the port of Karachi, or much longer routes to the north of Afghanistan. So flying everything out is the best option here.

One of Carmichael’s crews is in the process of loading four of these M-ATVs onto a hulking C-17.

“It’s a fast and furious process, because they only have two hours and 15 minutes to get this thing downloaded and uploaded and back in the air,” he says. “It’s just like a pit crew at a NASCAR event.”

And as busy as the crews are now, Carmichael says their capacity has hardly been tested.

“We have not seen the majority of the cargo we’re going to see,” he says. “Based on what I’m seeing on the projections, most of it is going to go in November and December.”

And, he says, they can also fly out more than 1,000 troops a day.

Carmichael says his port dogs will be some of the last ones to leave Afghanistan. “Somebody’s got to load the plane,” he says.

Article source: http://www.npr.org/blogs/parallels/2014/08/27/343676159/before-leaving-afghanistan-u-s-troops-must-declutter?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

London ‘Times’ Goes Retro With Stereo Typing

Uncategorized | Posted by Israel Grossman Attorney
Aug 28 2014

Robert Siegel speaks to Patrick Kidd, the editor of The Times Diary, about the sounds of mechanical typewriters piped into the newsroom of The Times in London. The idea is that the sounds will increase energy levels and help reporters hit deadlines.

Article source: http://www.npr.org/2014/08/27/343758250/london-times-goes-retro-with-stereo-typing?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

Diplomats And Lawyers Try To Define ‘Culturally Acceptable Food’

Uncategorized | Posted by Israel Grossman Attorney
Aug 28 2014

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Tractors sit on a sugarcane plantation on the land of a Guarani-Kaiowá indigenous community in Brazil, where Oxfam has alleged “land grabs” unfairly take land from the poor. The United Nations is drafting voluntary guidelines for “responsible investment in agriculture and food systems” in response to such concerns.

Tatiana Cardeal/Courtesy of Oxfam


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Tatiana Cardeal/Courtesy of Oxfam

Tractors sit on a sugarcane plantation on the land of a Guarani-Kaiow indigenous community in Brazil, where Oxfam has alleged land grabs unfairly take land from the poor. The United Nations is drafting voluntary guidelines for responsible investment in agriculture and food systems in response to such concerns.

Tractors sit on a sugarcane plantation on the land of a Guarani-Kaiowá indigenous community in Brazil, where Oxfam has alleged “land grabs” unfairly take land from the poor. The United Nations is drafting voluntary guidelines for “responsible investment in agriculture and food systems” in response to such concerns.

Tatiana Cardeal/Courtesy of Oxfam

Here’s a fine topic for a graduate seminar in anthropology: What makes food culturally acceptable? Cue discussions of values and taboos, tastes and traditions.

Now make room for diplomats and lawyers, because this question has popped up, improbably, during international negotiations at the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome.

The FAO’s member nations are drafting voluntary guidelines for “responsible investment in agriculture and food systems.” It’s a response to concerns over “land grabs” — big-money investors buying up farmland, often in Africa, where ownership of land sometimes is unclear. In some cases, these investors have displaced small-scale farmers, leading to protests and even violence.

The new guidelines are supposed to clarify the difference between responsible and irresponsible agricultural investments. Responsible investments, according to the draft guidelines, will increase “sustainable production … of safe, nutritious, diverse, and culturally acceptable food.”

When this phrase went into the draft back in May, no one seemed to object. But by the time the talks reconvened in early August, it had set off a severe case of indigestion in the U.S. delegation.

The U.S. “was concerned that it could lead to some barriers to trade,” says Doug Hertzler, who participated in the talks representing the anti-poverty group ActionAid. (Several U.S. officials didn’t respond to our request for an interview. One wrote in an email that “these are ongoing negotiations so it would be premature for me to discuss them.”)

According to others involved in the negotiations, U.S. officials did not say which foods they feared might be unfairly singled out as culturally unacceptable. Some speculated that the U.S. was worried about restrictions on genetically modified foods.

In any case, American negotiators demanded a definition of culturally acceptable, and they offered one: “For the purposes of this document, consumers, through the free exercise of their choices and demand, determine what food is culturally acceptable.” In other words, as long as somebody wants to buy it, it’s fine.

That market-based definition didn’t go over well with others. ActionAid and other activist groups pushed for a definition that recognized the right of indigenous communities to maintain their traditions.

A representative from Uruguay described the importance of sheep herding in his country, suggesting that agricultural investments that undermined these communities might violate the guidelines. Meanwhile, some majority-Muslim countries in Asia and Africa “were concerned about pork” and potential pork production facilities, says Hertzler, who, as it happens, got his Ph.D. in anthropology.

In the end, the African delegations struck a deal with the U.S., and their language is in the current version of the guidelines, which are still under negotiation. According to this compromise, culturally appropriate food “is understood as food that corresponds to individual and collective consumer demand and preferences, in line with national and international law.”

Elegant and memorable, it certainly is not. Heather Paxson, an anthropologist at MIT who teaches a course on food and culture, chuckled when she heard it. But Paxson is happy that government officials are recognizing, however awkwardly, that food is “much, much more than a nutrient delivery system.”

Hertzler says that he and his colleagues barely noticed the phrase when it first appeared in the draft guidelines in May. They had other priorities. They wanted the guideline to focus, for instance, on the crucial role of investments by small-scale farmers, not just multinational companies.

But the phrase “seems important now,” he says. It points out that food should be adequate “in a number of dimensions, one of them being cultural.”

The guidelines will be discussed and perhaps approved at the next meeting of the FAO’s Committee on Food Security in October.

Article source: http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2014/08/27/343693680/diplomats-and-lawyers-try-to-define-culturally-acceptable-food?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

The ‘Times’ Of London Reverts To Type To Motivate Reporters

Uncategorized | Posted by Israel Grossman Attorney
Aug 27 2014

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The newsroom of Radio Free Europe in 1971, when typewriters were the technology of choice.

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The newsroom of Radio Free Europe in 1971, when typewriters were the technology of choice.

The newsroom of Radio Free Europe in 1971, when typewriters were the technology of choice.

AP

In a striking display of confidence in the sensory impact of old-school technology, the Times of London has set up speakers in its newsroom to broadcast the sound of typewriters clicketing and clacking to inspire reporters to buckle down for deadline, the Independent reports.

The sound starts with just one mellow typewriter and builds to an insistent clamor as press time approaches, the Independent reports.

The tall speakers were a surprise to the journalists, given that typewriters haven’t been heard in newsrooms since the 1980s.

The Murdoch-owned Times calls the scheme a “trial,” and the paper’s deputy head of digital news called it “a playful idea,” but it remains to be seen whether reporters will work harder and faster to background music of typewriter keys hammering out stories the old-fashioned way.

Former Times journalist George Brock was skeptical.

“Typewriters disappeared from newsrooms in the late 1980s,” Brock told the Independent. “There will be very few people there who remember the noise of massed bands of typewriters in the newsroom.”

Times employee Jules Mattsson tweeted a photo of one of the newsroom speakers here.

Article source: http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2014/08/26/343534575/the-times-of-london-reverts-to-type-to-motivate-reporters?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

Report Details 16 Years Of ‘Horrific Abuse’ Of Children In U.K. Town

Uncategorized | Posted by Israel Grossman Attorney
Aug 27 2014

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Alexis Jay, author of a report released Tuesday that documents the abuse of 1,400 children in Rotherham, England, says local authorities were aware of the problem for years and did nothing.

Dave Higgens/PA Photos/Landov


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Alexis Jay, author of a report released Tuesday that documents the abuse of 1,400 children in Rotherham, England, says local authorities were aware of the problem for years and did nothing.

Alexis Jay, author of a report released Tuesday that documents the abuse of 1,400 children in Rotherham, England, says local authorities were aware of the problem for years and did nothing.

Dave Higgens/PA Photos/Landov

An investigation out on Tuesday documents the abuse of more than 1,400 children in Rotherham, England, and says local authorities were aware of the problem for years and did not respond.

Alexis Jay, who authored the report, used to be chief inspector of social work in Scotland.

She’s seen a lot. But despite being deeply familiar with the details of this report, even she seemed shaken by the words coming out of her mouth at Tuesday’s press conference about the victims, some as young as 11, abused from 1997 until last year.

“It is hard to describe the appalling nature of the abuse the child victims suffered. They were raped by multiple perpetrators. They were trafficked to other towns and cities in the north of England. They were abducted, beaten and intimidated,” Jay said.

Rotherham is a town of a quarter-million people in northern England. One question this raises is how such widespread abuse could have gone on for 16 years without local authorities knowing about it. Jay said authorities did know about it. Junior staff alerted their superiors again and again. She called it a “collective failure” by senior police and politicians.

“The evidence was disbelieved, suppressed or ignored. Child victims were often blamed for what had happened to them, while no action was taken against the perpetrators,” she said.

She said some officials were in denial that something so awful could happen in Rotherham. Others were afraid that trying to tackle the problem would raise racial tensions. The accused perpetrators are of Pakistani descent.

“Senior people in the council and police wanted to play down the ethnic dimensions. Front-line staff in social care were confused about what they were supposed to say and how to describe the problem for fear of being thought racist,” Jay said.

In fact, this is the third investigation into the crimes. The previous two reports were ignored or rejected because officials didn’t believe their conclusions. The leader of the local council, Roger Stone, resigned Tuesday. His deputy, Paul Lakin, said the council failed in its duties.

“I am deeply sorry, and I offer my sincere apologies to the young people who have suffered such horrific abuse and also to their families,” Lakin says.

He committed to never letting this happen again.

David Niven, former chairman of the British Association of Social Workers, says it’s not realistic to believe this will never happen again. The U.K. has always had a problem recognizing and addressing child sexual abuse, he says.

“And I suspect many or most Western industrialized countries have got something of a similar problem in terms of huge denial among law enforcement and social services as to the scale of things,” Niven says.

The U.K. has been wrestling with a string of recent revelations of child sexual abuse. But most of those crimes were committed decades ago. These offenses took place right up to the present day — which means there are also many child victims right now, and Niven says society has an obligation to care for them.

“Whatever the child’s and the young person’s circumstances are, I would hope that they’re given a menu of things depending on what particular needs that individual has that suits them best,” Niven says.

Five men are in jail in connection with the crimes. It’s not clear whether other arrests are expected.

Article source: http://www.npr.org/2014/08/26/343476152/report-details-16-years-of-horrific-abuse-of-children-in-uk-town?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

American Reportedly Fighting Alongside Extremists In Syria Dies

Uncategorized | Posted by Israel Grossman Attorney
Aug 27 2014

A U.S. citizen reportedly fighting alongside a terrorist group in Syria has died, the White House says.

The National Security Council has not said whether or not Douglas McAuthur McCain was fighting for the group that calls itself the Islamic State (also known as ISIS or ISIL), NPR’s Dina Temple-Raston reports. The Islamic State has claimed him, though.

“They actually put out a statement that said that he had died in battle,” Temple-Raston tells our Newscast Desk.

A statement from the Security Council confirmed McCain’s death, and noted that the White House was aware of his presence in Syria. Spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden added: “We continue to use every tool we possess to disrupt and dissuade individuals from traveling abroad for violent jihad and to track and engage those who return.”

Thousands of young men around the world, including Westerners, have joined the Islamic State and other rebel groups fighting in Syria, as Temple-Raston has previously reported.

“The White House knows that there are some 150 Americans who have left the United States and actually gone to fight in Syria. What’s unclear is who they’re fighting for,” she reports. They could be fighting for the Free Syrian Army, Temple-Raston says, an opposition group that the Obama administration supports.

This confusion is one of the reasons why the administration is keen on intelligence gathering in Syria, Temple-Raston says.

NBC News says it has contacted “several members of McCain’s family and dozens of friends.” NBC describes McCain as a 33-year-old who grew up in Minnesota’s Twin Cities area and later moved to San Diego, Calif.

“McCain’s online life … painted the picture of a devout Muslim who deeply loved his family – along with Pizza Hut and hip-hop,” NBC reports.

Article source: http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2014/08/26/343540251/american-reportedly-fighting-alongside-extremists-in-syria-dies?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

A New Strain Of Ebola Emerges In Democratic Republic Of Congo

Uncategorized | Posted by Israel Grossman Attorney
Aug 26 2014

A new outbreak of Ebola is being reported in the Democratic Republic of Congo. But scientists say it’s not related to the Ebola epidemic going on in West Africa.

Article source: http://www.npr.org/2014/08/25/343172439/a-new-strain-of-ebola-emerges-in-democratic-republic-of-congo?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

Liberia’s President Apologizes To The Mother Of A Slain Teenager

Uncategorized | Posted by Israel Grossman Attorney
Aug 26 2014

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President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf apologizes to Eva Kamara, the mother of a boy who was shot by Liberian security forces last week and later died.

Tommy Trenchard for NPR


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President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf apologizes to Eva Kamara, the mother of a boy who was shot by Liberian security forces last week and later died.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf apologizes to Eva Kamara, the mother of a boy who was shot by Liberian security forces last week and later died.

Tommy Trenchard for NPR

She came to say how sorry she was.

Today, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, president of Liberia, visited the poor neighborhood of West Point, now under quarantine after suspected Ebola patients fled a treatment center a week ago Saturday. On Wednesday, during protests over the quarantine, 15-year-old Shakie Kamara was shot in the legs by security forces. He died the next day of blood loss and hypothermic shock.

Sirleaf went to talk with the angry residents, who have complained that the quarantine is unfair, that they can’t lead their normal lives, that there isn’t enough food for them.

And she went to apologize to Eva Kamara, mother of Shakie.

Freelance photographer Tommy Trenchard, covering the visit for NPR, spoke to Eva Kamara afterward.

“She said it made her very proud that the president would come and talk to a poor woman like herself,” Trenchard reports.

Kamara was in tears for part of the conversation with the president.

The overall reaction to the president’s visit among West Pointers was mixed, Trenchard adds. People wanted to let Sirleaf know the hardships they are facing because of the quarantine. “A lot of people were saying we’re hungry, we don’t have food to eat,” he says.

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A West Point resident shouts to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf during her visit.

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A West Point resident shouts to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf during her visit.

A West Point resident shouts to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf during her visit.

Tommy Trenchard for NPR

But he didn’t sense a lot of anger directed toward Sirleaf: “It’s important to remember that people here, even those who would vote for the opposition, have a strong respect for the office of the president.”

West Point residents want Sirleaf to lift the quarantine so they can resume their normal lives. But the government is unlikely to lift a quarantine until three weeks have passed since the West Point treatment center was attacked — that’s the time it takes for Ebola to emerge after contact.

During the visit of roughly 40 minutes, Sirleaf was surrounded by her entourage. One member occasionally handed out cash as the president made her way down the main road.

“At one point,” Trenchard says, “she commented to two guys who had just received a thousand Liberian dollars [about $12 U.S.]. She said, ‘Don’t spend it on drink.’ “

Article source: http://www.npr.org/blogs/goatsandsoda/2014/08/25/343172859/liberias-president-apologizes-to-the-mother-of-a-slain-teenager?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

In Hostage Negotiation, Qatar Plays Middleman To Prove Its Worth

Uncategorized | Posted by Israel Grossman Attorney
Aug 26 2014

The small, gas-rich Arabian Gulf nation of Qatar played a key role in freeing U.S. hostage Peter Theo Curtis after nearly two years in Syria. For context on the release, Robert Siegel speaks with Shadi Hamid, the director of research at Brookings, Doha Center.

Article source: http://www.npr.org/2014/08/25/343203806/in-hostage-negotiation-qatar-plays-middleman-to-prove-its-worth?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

Al-Qaida’s Syrian Affiliate Frees U.S. Journalist Held Since 2012

Uncategorized | Posted by Israel Grossman Attorney
Aug 25 2014

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In this image made from undated video obtained by The Associated Press, a man believed to be Peter Theo Curtis, a U.S. citizen held hostage by an al-Qaida linked group in Syria, delivers a statement.

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In this image made from undated video obtained by The Associated Press, a man believed to be Peter Theo Curtis, a U.S. citizen held hostage by an al-Qaida linked group in Syria, delivers a statement.

In this image made from undated video obtained by The Associated Press, a man believed to be Peter Theo Curtis, a U.S. citizen held hostage by an al-Qaida linked group in Syria, delivers a statement.

AP

Updated at 5:05 p.m. ET

A week after the gruesome beheading of American journalist James Foley by Islamic State militants, another extremist group, the official al-Qaida affiliate operating in Syria, has quietly freed another U.S. journalist held for nearly two years.

Peter Theo Curtis, 45, originally from Boston, has been handed over to a United Nations representative. He was abducted near the Syria-Turkey border in Oct. 2012 and held by Jabhat al-Nusra [the Nusra Front], which has broken with the more radical Islamic State, also known by as ISIS or ISIL, which killed Foley.

It was not immediately clear why he was released, but a note to correspondents issued by the United Nations confirmed the handover. It said Curtis “was handed over to UN peacekeepers in Al Rafid village, Quneitra, the Golan Heights, at 6:40 p.m. (local time) on 24 August 2014. After receiving a medical check-up, Mr. Curtis was handed over to representatives of his government.”

In a statement from the Curtis’ parents, it said the freelance journalist used the pen name “Theo Padnos.” The statement expressed gratitude to the United States and Qatar “and to many individuals, private and public, who helped negotiate the release of our son.

“We are so relieved that Theo is healthy and safe and that he is finally headed home after his ordeal, but we are also deeply saddened by the terrible, unjustified killing last week of his fellow journalist, Jim Foley, at the hands of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, ISIS,” Nancy Curtis said.

The statement said the family believed Curtis was captured shortly after crossing into Syria in Oct. 2012 and “has been held since then by the militant group Jabhat al-Nusra or by splinter groups allied with Jabhat al-Nusra.”

Secretary of State John Kerry issued a statement today, saying after the “unspeakable tragedy” of Foley’s death, “we are all relieved and grateful knowing that Theo Curtis is coming home after so much time held in the clutches of Jabhat Al-Nusrah.”

“Theo’s mother, whom we’ve known from Massachusetts and with whom we’ve worked during this horrific period, simply refused to give up and has worked indefatigably to keep hope alive that this day could be a reality,” Kerry said. “Over these last two years, the United States reached out to more than two dozen countries asking for urgent help from anyone who might have tools, influence, or leverage to help secure Theo’s release and the release of any Americans held hostage in Syria.”

National Security Advisor Susan Rice said that “we join his family and loved ones in welcoming his freedom,” but “hold in our thoughts and prayers the Americans who remain in captivity in Syria.”

The Times says in a video made in June that was obtained by the newspaper “Mr. Curtis is seen looking disheveled, with long, unkempt hair. Speaking from a script, he says his captors had treated him well and that he ‘had everything’ he needed. ‘Everything has been perfect: food, clothing, even friends,’ he says in the video.

The Times reports:

“That description of his captivity is at odds with the accounts given by the American photojournalist Matthew Schrier, who escaped in July 2013 after being held for seven months, much of the time alongside Mr. Curtis in the same prison.

“Mr. Schrier described being tortured and starved by his masked jailers. In an interview soon after he regained his freedom, Mr. Schrier said his captors had forced a car tire over his knees, immobilized him with a wooden rod slid behind his legs, rolled him face down on a cement floor and beat the soles of his feet until he could not walk.

“Desperate to escape, Mr. Schrier said in the interview, he managed, while standing on his cellmate’s back, to unravel some wires in an opening in the wall of their cell. That allowed him to wiggle through the opening, he said, but his cellmate, who was slightly heavier-set, became stuck and decided to stay in the cell, urging Mr. Schrier to go on without him.

“The cellmate was Mr. Curtis, who endured 13 more months in captivity before the announcement of his freedom on Sunday.”

The Nusra Front has been active in the Syrian conflict for years. It was added to the U.S. State Department’s terror list in December 2012. As we reported in May, an American recruit, known to the group as Abu Hurayra the American, carried out a suicide truck bombing on a Syrian military facility.

NPR’s Kelly McEvers has also reported extensively on the al-Qaida affiliate:

A Chat With A Radical Fighter In Syria (March 9, 2013)

Jihadi Fighters Win Hearts And Minds By Easing Syria’s Bread Crisis (January 16, 2013)

— Jihadist Group Complicates Picture In Syria (May 10, 2012)

Article source: http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2014/08/24/342943833/al-qaidas-syrian-affiliate-frees-u-s-journalist-held-since-2012?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world