Nicole Tung, a freelance photojournalist born in Hong Kong, has shared her memories of fellow journalist James Foley who was slain by Sunni extremists in Iraq this week.
In an interview to US National Public Radio, Tung — who had worked and traveled with Foley during the course of their work — revealed that she was in fact due to meet the murdered US photojournalist on the day he was abducted by Islamic extremists in November 2012.
Tung said she first met Foley in Benghazi in 2011 when they were both covering the Libyan uprising. Foley was later taken captive there by Muammar Gaddafi’s forces before being eventually freed.
Later, the two journalists teamed up as they figured that working as a pair was safer than working alone. They traveled in and out of Syria half a dozen times together, covering the civil war until Foley was captured by militants on Thanksgiving day in 2012.
Following his abduction, Foley was held hostage by the Islamic State extremists for almost two years, before a brutal beheading this week. The militants posted online a grisly video of their monstrous act, warning the US that more such executions could take place if Washington doesn’t halt its air strikes in Iraq.
In the interview posted on the NPR website, Tung elaborated on what happened the day Foley went missing in late 2012.
“I was actually arranging a meeting with him on the Turkish side of the border that day. And he was actually coming out that day from Syria… When he didn’t show up, I started to get worried,” she said.
Tung said she failed to reach Foley by phone, and so she started calling their local “fixer” in Syria, a person who translates and helps arrange meetings in the country.
“When he (the fixer) picked up the phone, I knew immediately that something had gone wrong. He explained to me that they were on the road. Four masked gunmen stopped their car. James was taken at gunpoint,” she said.
Tung said Foley was a very delightful guy and a person that she believed she could rely on.
“He was one of these guys who just warmed up to people very easily… traveling with him and working in dangerous environments was incredibly easy because he was so calm in the worst of circumstances,” she said.
“He was always very, very quick to smile and share a joke, and I think that that’s the image that I would choose to remember him by. And I hope that many others do, as well.”
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