US softens stance on hostage ransoms: report

WASHINGTON (AFP) - US officials are expected to stop prosecuting families of American hostages who communicate with kidnappers abroad or raise funds and pay ransoms, ABC news reported Sunday.

A National Counterterrorism Center advisory group, ordered by the White House, is expected to recommend what would mark a radical shift in US hostage policy, according to the report.

The NCTC interviewed families of hostages, including the parents of journalist James Foley, who was killed by Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) fighters last year.

Foley's mother Diane has said that officials from President Barack Obama's administration repeatedly told her family it was illegal to try to raise a ransom to free her son, and warned that her family could face prosecution for doing so.

The Obama administration has denied making any such threats.

"There will be absolutely zero chance of any family member of an American held hostage overseas ever facing jail themselves, or even the threat of prosecution, for trying to free their loved ones," a senior official told ABC News.

Diane Foley welcomed the potential policy shift, which officials discussed with her last week.

"There's a lot that needs to be fixed," she told ABC News.

She said the past threats were "the straw that broke the camel's back. It was incredible."

A number of hostage families expressed outrage after US Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl was freed by the Haqqani Network in Pakistan a year ago in exchange for the release of five Taleban leaders held at the Guantanamo Bay military prison.

Army Lieutenant General Bennet Sacolick, who previously headed the elite Delta Force counterterrorism unit, is heading the hostage policy review team, along with his NCTC staff.

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