Ruppersberger focuses on man missing in Libya
The family of a 31-year-old Baltimore man who has been missing in Libya since March enlisted the help of Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger on Monday to raise awareness about his plight.
Matthew VanDyke travelled to the country, which is in the middle of a civil war, in early March to "witness history," according to Sharon VanDyke, his mother. She said she last heard from her son March 12.
"This is a major priority when you have an American being held captive, especially based on the situation occurring in Libya," said the Baltimore County Democrat, adding that he has contacted the White House and the U.S. State Department about the case. "The No. 1 priority is to bring him home safely."
Ruppersberger said he was asked to help because of his position as the top-ranking Democrat on the House Select Intelligence Committee.
VanDyke's status is not clear. There has been no confirmation that he is being held by forces controlled by the Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. In April, the State Department counted him among several Americans who were missing in the country.
An experienced traveller with a degree in security studies from Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service, VanDyke has been working on a book about his travels in the Middle East, his family said. VanDyke is listed on the Committee to Protect Journalists website as a freelance journalist.
"He truly loved the country," said Sharon VanDyke, who hosted the press conference in her living room in South Baltimore. "When he left he believed...in a week, Gadhafi would be gone. He didn't believe that he was going to be in an area where Gadhafi would show up."
Sharon VanDyke said her son did not go to Libya to fight with opposition forces.
In addition to his degree from Georgetown, VanDyke graduated from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County in 2002 with a bachelor's degree in political science.
"Strange as it might sound, this is not unusual for him to pick up and go to Libya," said Sen George W. Della Jr., a Baltimore Democrat who also attended the news conference. " He wanted to fully understand the mindset of the people in the Middle East."