August 23, 2010
Washington (KATAKAMI / CNN) – Former President Jimmy Carter is traveling to North Korea to free detained American Aijalon Mahli Gomes, a senior administration official and another source familiar with the trip said Monday.
Both sources described the trip as a “private humanitarian mission” to free Gomes, a 31 year-old Boston resident who was sentenced in April to eight years at a hard labor camp for illegally crossing North Korea’s border with China and for an unspecified “hostile act.”
While President Carter contacted the Obama administration about the trip, no officials will be traveling with him and he “will not be carrying any message on behalf of the United States government,” the senior official said.
North Korean state media KCNA reported Gomes attempted suicide because he felt the US had not done enough to free him.
State Department Spokesman PJ Crowley would not comment Monday about whether an envoy was being considered to free Gomes, but said ““We are engaged with the North Koreans to try to encourage them to release him on humanitarian grounds.”
“We’re anxious to get Mr. Gomes home,” Crowley said.
The senior official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation said “President Carter fits that role perfectly.”
“He is someone in a position to take action as a distinguished international figure,” the official said.
Carter is expected to leave Tuesday.