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American killed in Syria a journalist at heart; committee condemns his 'barbaric murder'

  • Missing American-Syria-1.jpg

    FILE - In this Friday, May 27, 2011, file photo, journalist James Foley poses for a photo during an interview with The Associated Press, in Boston. A video by Islamic State militants that purports to show the killing of Foley by the militant group was released Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014. Foley, from Rochester, N.H., went missing in 2012 in northern Syria while on assignment for Agence France-Press and the Boston-based media company GlobalPost. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File) (The Associated Press)

  • Missing American-Syria-2.jpg

    FILE - In this Friday, May 27, 2011, file photo, journalist James Foley responds to questions during an interview with The Associated Press, in Boston. A video by Islamic State militants that purports to show the killing of Foley by the militant group was released Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014. Foley, from Rochester, N.H., went missing in 2012 in northern Syria while on assignment for Agence France-Press and the Boston-based media company GlobalPost. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File) (The Associated Press)

  • 1580e94fab8548205d0f6a70670052be.jpg

    Rev. Paul Gousse from Our Lady of the Holy Rosary leaves after meeting with the family of American freelance journalist James Foley in Rochester, N.H., Tuesday Aug. 19, 2014. The White House said Tuesday it has not confirmed the authenticity of a video that purports to show the killing of Foley who went missing in Syria nearly two years ago. (AP Photo/Jim Cole) (The Associated Press)

  • Missing American Syria-4.jpg

    A ribbon is tied to a tree outside the home of American freelance journalist James Foley, on Tuesday Aug. 19, 2014, in Rochester, N.H. A video by Islamic State militants that purports to show the killing of Foley by the militant group was released Tuesday. (AP Photo/Jim Cole) (The Associated Press)

Journalist James Foley, captured and held six weeks while covering the uprising in Libya, knew the risks when he went to Syria in 2012 to cover the escalating violence there. It didn't matter. He was a journalist at heart, once saying he'd cover local news if it meant doing the job he loved.

Foley was snatched again in Syria in November 2012 when the car he was riding in was stopped by four militants in a battle zone that Sunni rebel fighters and government forces were trying to control.

Two U.S. officials said a video posted online Tuesday shows Islamic State militants beheading Foley. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to discuss the video by name.

Foley's family confirmed his death on a webpage created to rally support for him. His mother, Diane Foley, said in a statement on the webpage he "gave his life trying to expose the world to the suffering of the Syrian people."

At Foley's family home in Rochester, a light burned yellow in a center upstairs window and a yellow ribbon adorned a tree at the foot of the driveway. The Rev. Paul Gousse, of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, where the Foleys are parishioners, spent about 45 minutes at the house but left without commenting.

Foley, 40, worked in a number of conflict zones in the Middle East, including Syria, Libya and Iraq. He and another journalist were working in the northern province of Idlib in Syria when they were kidnapped near the village of Taftanaz.

After Foley disappeared, while contributing video for Agence France-Presse and the media company GlobalPost, his parents became fierce advocates for him and all those kidnapped in war zones. They held regular prayer vigils and worked with the U.S. and Syrian diplomatic corps to get whatever scraps of information they could.

Diane Foley, asked in January 2013 if her son had reservations about going to Syria, said softly: "Not enough."

He had seen the dangers to journalists up close.

Upon his release from Libya and return to the United States, he recalled in an interview with The Associated Press seeing a colleague, South African photographer Anton Hammerl, killed by forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. He tried to pull his friend's body out of harm's way but was turned back by heavy fire.

"I'll regret that day for the rest of my life. I'll regret what happened to Anton," Foley said. "I will constantly analyze that."

Foley also covered the war in Afghanistan but called the Libyan fighting the worst he had ever experienced to that point.

Foley grew up in New Hampshire and studied history at Marquette University. He later taught in Arizona, Massachusetts and Chicago before switching careers to become a journalist, which he viewed as a calling.

"Journalism is journalism," Foley said. "If I had a choice to do Nashua (New Hampshire) zoning meetings or give up journalism, I'll do it. I love writing and reporting."

Marquette University said it was "deeply saddened" by Foley's death. It said he had a heart for social justice and used his talents to tell stories in the hopes they might make a difference.

"We extend our heartfelt prayers and wishes for healing to James' family and friends during this very difficult time," it said in a statement.

The Committee to Protect Journalists condemned what it called Foley's "barbaric murder" by the Islamic State, which says his killing was retribution for recent U.S. airstrikes in Iraq.

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Associated Press writers Lara Jakes and Julie Pace contributed to this report from Washington.

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