NH family: Missing US journalist in Syrian prison

Steve Peoples, Associated Press

FILE - In this May 27, 2011 file photo, American journalist James Foley, of Rochester, N.H., poses for a photo in Boston. The parents of Foley, last seen on Nov. 22, 2012, in northwest Syria, were to speak about him at a World Press Freedom Day event in Boston, Friday, May 3, 2013. World Press Freedom Day is held each year to raise awareness about journalists around the world, who are censored, arrested, attacked or murdered because of their work. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)

BOSTON (AP) -- The New Hampshire-based family of a journalist missing for five months now believe "with a very high degree of confidence" that he is being held in a Syrian prison.

James Foley was last seen on Nov. 22 in northwest Syria, where he was contributing videos to Agence France-Press for the media company GlobalPost. His family in Rochester, N.H., says he was kidnapped by unknown gunmen.

GlobalPost CEO Philip Balboni said Friday that an exhaustive investigation has determined that Foley was likely abducted by a pro-Syrian government military group. Investigators believe he is being held with one or more Western journalists in a detention facility near Damascus.

"We're very confident that Jim is well and being well cared for," Balboni said, adding that he had "very specific" intelligence on Foley's location, including the name of the detention facility, but declined to release that information publicly.

He confirmed that GlobalPost and the Foley family were in touch with the U.S. State Department, in addition to foreign governments near Syria, but that investigators are trying to work through diplomatic channels "out of the public eye."

The comments came during a Boston forum celebrating "World Press Freedom Day," which is held each year to raise awareness about journalists around the world who are censored, arrested, attacked and even murdered because of their work.

There were 70 journalists killed worldwide in 2012 and 17 have been killed so far in 2013, according to event organizers.

James Foley, 39, is the oldest of five children. His father, John Foley, said the family was "terrified," but also optimistic that his son would be released unharmed.

"We're appealing to the humanitarian sentiments of his captors," he said.

James Foley was also captured by Libyan forces in 2011. His captors at that time allowed him to make a phone call to confirm he was alive, but the family has had no contact with him since his Thanksgiving Day abduction, according to his father.

"We believe he is alive and well," John Foley said of his son. "We believed that from the first day. We have to have hope."