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Journalist James Foley in Aleppo, Syria, in July 2012. / Nicole Tung, AP

Freelance journalist James Foley had dreams of being a schoolteacher but chose the path of an international journalist to document "the most important things happening in the world," as a colleague said. Those dreams ended Tuesday when Foley, who was kidnapped in Syria nearly two years ago, was executed by an Islamist fighter.

The beheading was documented in a video message from the Islamic State to the U.S. government.

"He gave his life trying to expose the world to the suffering of the Syrian people," Foley's mother, Diane, said in a Facebook post on the page Free James Foley. She implored the kidnappers to spare the lives of the rest of the hostages.

Foley, 40, was a native of Rochester, N.H., and the oldest of five children to Diane and John Foley. He graduated from Marquette University in 1996, where he initially dreamed of working as a teacher in the inner city. He spent some time in the Teach for America program but decided to switch to international reporting, graduating from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism in 2008, according to CNN.

In her Facebook post, Diane Foley said her family has "never been prouder" of James.

"We thank Jim for all the joy he gave use," she posted. "He was an extraordinary son, brother, journalist and person."

She asked the public to respect the family's privacy "in the days ahead as we mourn and cherish Jim.".

Foley worked in Iraq and Afghanistan as a freelancer for major media outlets such as Agence France-Press and GlobalPost. Foley had been captured once before in Libya in 2011, where he was held by Moammar Gadhafi loyalists for 44 days and released, according to Charles Sennott, co-founder of GlobalPost. That did not deter Foley from reporting on war zones.

"He felt his work was meaningful and important, and it was about the most important things happening in the world," Sennott told WGHB's Morning Edition, "and that to do that right, you had to be out there on the front lines."

Foley was on a freelance assignment for GlobalPost when he was abducted at gunpoint near the town of Taftanaz in northern Syria on Nov. 22, 2012. He was stopped by a group of armed men on his way to the Turkish border, GlobalPost reported.

His family publicly revealed his kidnapping two months later, advocating for his safe return through social media and public appearances. During his captivity, family members told The Today Show they were in the dark. "We've heard nothing. Nothing. We last knew that he was abducted on Thanksgiving Day in the Idlib province, but we don't know who took him or why," Foley's father, John, said on Today in October 2013.

The Committee to Protect Journalists estimates there are 20 journalists missing in Syria, many of them held by the Islamic State. Secretary of State John Kerry released a statement Wednesday expressing condolences to Foley's family. Kerry said Foley was a "courageous American who lived out the meaning of the word journalism."

Sarah Fang, Foley's colleague from Teach for America, wrote in an essay shortly after his disappearance that Foley was always willing to go "where no one else wants to go."

"Jim feels that society needs reporters willing to bear witness and report back the facts of history-in-the-making," Fang said. "And his loyalty to his colleagues meant that he wanted to be there with them on the front lines."

Contributing: Gary Stoller



Copyright 2014USA TODAY

Read the original story: Foley set out to record 'most important things'

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