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American journalist abducted in Syria

By CNN Staff
updated 7:38 AM EST, Thu January 3, 2013
U.S. freelance reporter James Foley is shown in Aleppo, Syria, in early November.
U.S. freelance reporter James Foley is shown in Aleppo, Syria, in early November.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Foley's brother says their sister spoke with the journalist the day he was abducted
  • James Foley's family makes the announcement, hoping media attention will bring his release
  • Gunmen took Foley in Syria on November 22, his family says
  • Foley's family also says they "at least" need to talk with the journalist

Read a version of this story in Arabic.

(CNN) -- Gunmen have kidnapped an American journalist in Syria, the journalist's family announced Wednesday.

Freelancer James Foley was taken in northwest Syria on November 22, Thanksgiving Day in America, his family said, adding it decided to make his capture public now in the hope that media attention will increase the odds he'll be released unharmed.

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

A Facebook page and a Twitter account have been created for anyone to post messages about Foley.

This isn't the first time Foley has been abducted. He was taken along with others in Libya in 2011. He and three other journalists were released by the Libyan military in May 2011.

Foley worked for GlobalPost at the time. The news outlet ran a story on its website Wednesday about Foley's abduction in Syria.

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Foley communicated with his sister online, via Skype, on Thanksgiving morning, his brother, Michael Foley, told CNN Wednesday. The journalist didn't suggest that he felt he was in any danger during that conversation, he said.

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James Foley was working on several stories when he was abducted, including one "on the destruction of the ancient city of Aleppo," said his brother, Michael Foley. He added that the family has been working closely with government agencies as well as people in Turkey and Syria.

"Anyone and everyone," the brother said. "One of the reasons we have put the story out there is because we are seeking additional information. The message we want to give is James is an innocent and unbiased journalist and we appeal that he be released unharmed."

Foley's website says he has "reported independently and objectively from the Middle East for the past five years."

The Foley family has tried over the years to get used to their relative's choice to be a war correspondent.

"It's been an adjustment. It's been something we have been getting around," Michael Foley said. "We have never tried to talk him out of it because he is so passionate about it and he truly wants to shed light on conflict."

The journalist has taken security training for conflict zones and is "very cautious in what he does," Michael Foley said.

When his brother was released in Libya, Michael Foley flew to Libya to see him. "It was an emotional high you cannot describe," he said.

What's in store for Syria in 2013?

The global news agency AFP, which has been using Foley's work since March 2012, released a statement saying that Foley was taken in the northern town of Taftanaz and that no one has claimed responsibility.

"After respecting his family's initial decision to remain silent about the abduction, AFP now fully supports its choice in making the news public and wholeheartedly calls for the journalist's release," said AFP CEO Emmanuel Hoog. "We remain in constant contact with the journalist's family and friends. In addition, we are multiplying contacts and taking every measure in our power to facilitate his release."

"James is a professional journalist who has remained totally neutral in this conflict. His captors, whoever they may be, must release him immediately," he added in a written statement.

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Foley is familiar with war zones, Hoog said, and the journalist's work "has considerably enriched coverage of the Syrian conflict."

Foley had contributed about 30 video reports from Syria.

Before he became a journalist, Foley's website says, he "helped empower disadvantaged individuals as a teacher and mentor, assisting them in improving their lives."

CNN's Salma Abdelaziz contributed to this report.

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