Slain American journalist 'James Foley' remembered as driven

Aug 21 2014, 10:43 IST
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SummaryIn 2011, just after James Foley was released from the Libyan prison where he'd been held for six weeks...

In 2011, just after James Foley was released from the Libyan prison where he'd been held for six weeks, he acknowledged the peril journalists face covering the world's most dangerous places, soberly conceding that a mistake could mean death.

''It's pure luck that you didn't get killed there. Pure luck,'' Foley said during the appearance at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. ''And you either need to change your behavior right there or you shouldn't be doing this. Because it's not worth your life. It's not worth seeing your mother, your father, brother and sister bawling and you're worrying about your grandmother dying because you're in prison.''

Foley went back overseas, was abducted in Syria in 2012 and was held captive for months before he was slain. Islamic State militants on Tuesday posted a video on the Internet that showed his killing.

His mother said Wednesday the 40-year-old from Rochester came out of the Libyan scrape more driven to tell the story of people oppressed by thuggish regimes. In a kitchen conversation, Diane Foley tried to steer her son to other pursuits.

''Mom, I found my passion. I found my vocation,'' she recalled him saying.

Former co-workers saw that intensity.

''He was determined to go to Syria, and he wanted to get the point of view of the Syrian people told,'' said Andrew Meldrum, assistant Africa editor for The Associated Press, who worked with Foley at GlobalPost in Boston. ''He could have continued to work in the safety of Boston. It wasn't like he even made a decision. He was dead set on going there.''

It was not always comfortable for his colleagues.

''He took you right there, and sometimes we were looking at things and thinking, `He's too close. He's too close,''' Meldrum said. ''And you wanted to say, `Pull back,' but it was compelling video. He really found his purpose in life in going out and reporting that story.''

Foley was abducted Nov. 22, 2012, and hadn't been heard from since. GlobalPost had spent millions of dollars on efforts to bring him home, CEO Philip Balboni said.

The militant Islamic State group said it killed Foley as a warning to the United States after U.S. airstrikes in northern Iraq. The group said a second hostage, journalist Steven Sotloff, would be executed unless the U.S. halts its intervention in Iraq.

Sotloff published articles from Syria, Egypt and

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