TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) — A senior Libyan official said Wednesday that he has no knowledge about the fate of an American journalist missing for more than nine weeks.
Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kaim told reporters that he had no information about Matthew VanDyke, a freelance journalist from Baltimore.
VanDyke, 31, last spoke with his family March 12 before saying he was heading to the eastern oil town of Brega.
Last week, the Libyan government released four reporters held since April. The journalists said a photojournalist, Anton Hammerl, was shot and left to die when they were detained.
Libyan officials had maintained they knew nothing about Hammerl, who had South African and Austrian citizenship.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists says at least 15 Libyan and foreign journalists are still believed to be held by Libyan authorities.
U.S. officials have been trying to get information about VanDyke through governments that still have relationships with Libya and through the opposition, according to Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, a Democrat from Maryland.
VanDyke’s mother, Sharon, traveled to Turkey two weeks ago and took photos of her son to the Libyan embassy and any other official she thought might help.
VanDyke called home March 12, saying he would take a day trip to the eastern Libyan oil town of Brega to take pictures. His mother received a message with GPS coordinates from Brega the next day, but that was the last contact she had with him.
U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Wednesday that the agency was aware of VanDyke’s case and in contact with his family.
“We call on the Libyan government to immediately release all U.S. citizens who are being unjustly detained and provide information on those missing.”
When asked how many Americans are being held or presumed missing, Toner said, “I think it’s six who are still being held that we’re aware of.
When asked who was helpful in Tripoli, Toner said “Certain entities on the ground, such as the Hungarian embassy, were helpful to us. We continue to have contacts on the ground in Tripoli, but granted, they’re very spotty.”
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)