The US has confirmed that a kidnapped American journalist has been freed by his captors—and John Kerry says he is "relieved and grateful" that Peter Theo Curtis is on the way home. Relatives tell the New York Times that Qatar helped free the Massachusetts native after nearly two years in Syria as a captive of the al-Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front. "Our family wants to thank the country of Qatar in a big way," a cousin says. "Every person that our family dealt with in Qatar said that under no circumstances would a ransom be paid—and that this was something the US government had requested, and they had agreed to," she says. "But at the same time, we don’t pretend to know everything that happened." The United Nations says the 45-year-old was handed over to UN peacekeepers in the Golan Heights region disputed between Syria and Israel and brought to Israel, where he was transferred to US representatives.
While Qatar appears to have played the lead role, Kerry says the US "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," the BBC reports. Curtis' mother says she plans to help the families of those still being held by militants. "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," she said in a statement. Foley was honored with a mass in his New Hampshire hometown yesterday. (Read more Peter Theo Curtis stories.)