NBC News has revealed that their top foreign correspondent Richard Engel and his crew have been released from captivity after going missing in Syria for nearly a week. Engel and team were abducted shortly after crossing the border from Turkey into Syria last Thursday, and taken to an unknown location. According to NBC, the group was held, bound and blindfolded for five days, until Monday night when the group holding them was involved in a firefight with Syrian rebels, in which two of their captors were killed. Engel and his crew were freed and then crossed back in to Turkey on Tuesday, unharmed. No group has claimed responsibility, but NBC says they were not pro-regime sympathizers. (See update below.)
Engel's disappearance was only revealed to the public on Monday afternoon, after a Turkish news service published the story online. NBC had been furiously trying to enforce a media blackout on the story, but once numerous English language reports had been published and the news hit Twitter it became impossible to keep it a secret. Several other journalist kidnappings—most notably, the abduction of David Rohde of The New York Times—have been kept secret in the past out of fear that reporting the story would interfere with ransom negotiations or otherwise put the abductees in danger.
A Ukrainian journalist, Ankhar Kochneva, was recently kidnapped by anti-Assad rebels who accused her of being a Russian spy. The threatened to kill her by last Friday if a $50 million ransom was not paid. Her current whereabouts are unknown, though she is reported to be still alive. Turkish journalist Aziz Akyavaş, who was also working for NBC, was kidnapped last week and released on Tuesday, apparently in a separate incident from Engel. (Correction: Akyavaş was indeed part of Engel's team.)
Update 7:47 a.m. Engel spoke to the Today show and recounted his harrowing ordeal this morning. Speaking from Turkey, he says that he and two of his colleagues were kidnapped and psychologically tortured and only managed to escape because his captors were killed in a gunfight with rebels. Engel said he believes they were in fact, Assad loyalists, though no one has formally taken credit.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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