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May 18. 2011 11:07PM

Journalist held in Libya eager to get back to U.S.

The relief in Diane Foley’s voice could be heard loud and clear, even if she wasn’t ready to start celebrating.

Her son James, the New Hampshire native and Boston-based journalist held captive by the Libyan government since April 5, had called her to say that he and three other journalists had been released and taken to a hotel in Tripoli.

“He has been freed, but he’s not out of Libya yet,” said Foley, a Rochester resident. “I’ll feel better once he’s back in the U.S.”

Foley, a journalist with GlobalPost, along with Clare Morgana Gillis, a freelance journalist for The Atlantic and USA Today; Spanish photographer Manu Brabo; and British journalist Nigel Chandler were all at the Rixos Hotel, a housing area for foreign journalists assigned to Tripoli, on Wednesday afternoon, one day after the Libyan government announced it was giving them a one-year suspended sentence on charges of illegally entering the country.

Reuters reported last night that Libyan government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim told the four journalists they were welcome to stay in Libya, but stated they would be taken to the Tunisian border to leave the country if they so desired.

Foley, 37, hails from Rochester and graduated from Marquette in 1996 as a history and Spanish major, according to Marquette records.

GlobalPost reported Wednesday that correspondents had spoken with Foley by phone from the Rixos Hotel, and that he said he was “overwhelmed to hear about all the support” expressed for him and his fellow journalists while they were detained.

Diane Foley said her son sounded relieved when he called her to confirm his release.

“He said he just wanted to get home,” said Foley. “Now we are working out the logistics of getting him here. I’m glad he’s freed, but we want him here.”

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, expressed relief Wednesday afternoon after speaking with Diane Foley by phone.

”I am tremendously relieved and overjoyed to hear that James Foley has been released from his imprisonment in Libya and can return home to reunite with his family and friends,” Shaheen said in a prepared statement. “Since James went missing in April, there has been an outpouring of support for him throughout the world. As a mother of three myself, I can only imagine the anxiety and pain his loved ones have endured. I am glad that James’ family, friends, colleagues and classmates all have something to celebrate today, and we eagerly await word that he is on his way home.”

Shaheen also stated she recognizes that there are still several U.S. citizens being held prisoner by the government in Libya, and urged the Gadhafi regime to release them as well.

Shaheen and Sen. Kelly Ayotte met with James’ parents, Diane and John Foley, last week in Washington and both worked with the U.S. State Department in an effort to help secure his release.

“This is welcome and long-awaited news for James and for his family, friends and loved ones, who have endured weeks of agonizing uncertainty about his safety,” said Sen. Ayotte in a prepared statement. “I know that the enormous outpouring of support from the community was a great comfort to the Foley family during these past several weeks. I hope that James and his family will be reunited as soon as possible, and I look forward to his safe return home.”

Foley and his fellow journalists spent more than six weeks in several different detention centers after being captured on April 5 while reporting near Brega. He had been on assignment covering the Libyan rebel army for GlobalPost since early March.

The journalists were expected to be escorted to the Libyan border with Tunisia sometime today.

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