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Mother Works To Free Her Missing Son In Libya

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Matthew Vandyke
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Mary Bubala joined WJZ in December 2003. She now anchors the 4-4:30...
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BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The uprising in Libya is at the center of a local mother’s search.  Her son, a Baltimore journalist, disappeared during the first weeks of the struggle.

Mary Bubala reports she’s traveled to the other side of the globe and won’t give up until she brings him home.

Violent uprisings to overthrow Moammar Gadhafi in Libya tore apart a Baltimore mother and her son, an independent journalist who’s now at the center of an international mystery.

Matthew VanDyke is an adventurer who frequently left his South Baltimore home to explore the Middle East on the back of his motorcycle.  This spring, he felt a calling to witness history.  When the Libyan people were trying to overthrow their government, his mother says he fearlessly headed straight for the action.

“Not only is he witnessing it, he’s right smack in the middle of it,” said Sharon VanDyke.  “He’s in the middle of someone else’s war.”

The last time she heard her son’s voice was on March 12.  He told her he was heading from Benghazi to Brega and they’d talk the next day.  When she called him, she only got a recording.

“There was a recording in Arabic.  We’re assuming it said the call couldn’t go through,” she said.

Frantic, she called Matthew’s cell phone more than 30 times a day.  Finally one day, someone picked up—but it was a man with an Arabic accent, not her son.

“I said, `Why do you have my son’s cell phone?’  I told him my son was an American, I was trying to reach him and he said, `I hope you find your son,’ and he hung the phone up,” she said.

Sharon’s been searching ever since, but Matthew seems to have disappeared.  Sharon thinks he may be in prison.

“Yes, I do,” she said.  “Gaddafi has these detention centers all over the country, so I think Matthew is in one of them.”

Since no one will tell Sharon anything, she is determined to do whatever it takes to find her son.  She’s pressed the State Department, appealed to embassies in Washington, D.C. and flown halfway around the world to Istanbul, Turkey.  She didn’t stop there.

“He’s a person who has a mother who’s out looking for him,” she said.  “I went to the Libyan embassy and talked to Gadhafi’s men.  I knocked on the door and they let me in.  The press counselor’s son—who’s in Gadhafi’s army—had been missing for a month as a part of this war.  He said he understood what I was going through.  Now what happened after I left him with Matthew’s pictures, I don’t know, but I did what I thought I had to do.”

Back home, Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger held a news conference in her living room.

“This is a major priority when you have an American held captive,” he said.

As a ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, Ruppersberger introduced a resolution in Congress calling on Libya to free Matthew and all captured Americans.

“We’ve been in contact with the White House, in contact with the director of National Intelligence and with the State Department,” Ruppersberger said.

The State Department has appealed to Libya to release Matthew, along with all Americans held captive.

“I am not going to see my son as long as Gadhafi is in power,” Sharon said.

She says it has now been 121 days since she spoke to Matthew.  She is trying to make plans to go to Libya herself to get information about her son, but is having trouble working out the details of that dangerous trip.

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