NU alum arrives in the U.S. after being released from captivity

Sean Lavery

James Foley (MSJ ’08) arrived in the United States on Saturday following about a month and a half of captivity in Tripoli, the capital city and government stronghold of war-torn Libya.

The event was dampened by news of the death of Foley’s colleague, South African journalist Anton Hammerl. Hammerl was killed when pro-Gadhafi forces unleashed a line of fire upon the journalists April 5, GlobalPost reported Friday.

Foley, Hammerl, Harvard alum Clare Gillis and Spanish photographer Manu Brabo had accompanied a caravan of rebel soldiers on that morning and arrived on the outskirts of the city of Brega. After receiving word that pro-Gadhafi forces had “dug in” at a nearby area, the journalists exited their vehicle to wait for rebel soldiers to advance.

The rebel forces quickly retreated, and the journalists were soon on the receiving end of an armed onslaught, Foley told GlobalPost on Thursday.

“It all happened in a split second,” Foley said. “We thought we were in the crossfire. But, eventually, we realized they were shooting at us. You could see and hear the bullets hitting the ground near us.”

Hammerl was struck in the abdomen by a bullet and cried out for help, Foley said. As the pro-Gadhafi troops approached the group, Foley identified himself as a journalist. Foley was then punched in the face and received a few blows from the butt-end of the AK-47. Gillis and Brabo were also hit, Foley said, and the journalists were tied with electric cords before being thrown into a truck.

Foley, Gillis and Brabo were then held for more than 45 days in Libyan prison. Gillis was allowed two phone calls home, while Foley was allowed one call in late April. He told his parents he was being treated well and appreciated the prayers and support.

The journalists, along with British freelancer Nigel Chandler, were released Wednesday after a trial hearing convicted them of entering the country without a visa. Each of them were fined 200 Libyan dinars, or about $150. They were released May 18 and left for Tunisia before Foley and Gillis made their way back to the U.S.

Foley reunited with his family Saturday night. Foley’s mother, Diane Foley, said the family was enjoying dinner together Monday evening.

A fund has been set up asking for donations to defer costs the family incurred while fighting for James’s release.

University spokesman Al Cubbage welcomed the news of Foley’s homecoming.

“That’s very good news and we’re glad to hear it,” he said in an email. “Our best wishes and thoughts go to him and his family.”

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