Richard Engel, NBC News Crew, Freed In Syria

NBC News Chief Foreign Correspondent Richard Engel was freed yesterday after being held by an unknown group in Syria: 

Richard Engel, the chief foreign correspondent for NBC News, and three of his crew members were freed on Monday after five days in captivity in Syria, the news organization said Tuesday.

The journalists were unharmed. The news organization released a short statement that said, “We are pleased to report they are safely out of the country.”

The identities of the kidnappers and their motives were unknown. But their kidnapping once again highlights the perils of reporting from Syria, which is said by the Committee to Protect Journalists to be “the world’s most dangerous place for the press.”

NBC declined to specify the number of crew members that were with Mr. Engel but a person with specific knowledge of the situation said there were three. The person did not say whether Mr. Engel was traveling with security

Mr. Engel covertly entered Syria several times this year to report on the insurgency that is fighting President Bashar al-Assad there. He was last seen on television last Thursday in a taped report from Aleppo, Syria’s commercial capital, where he reported that “the Syrian regime appears to be cracking, but the rebels remain outgunned.” He and his crew members had apparently moved to a safer location outside the country to transmit their report (two days earlier he had reported live on the “Today” show from Turkey, having just come back from Aleppo) because they were detained on Thursday when they were trying to move back into Syria.

Mr. Engel and the crew members, whose names were not released by NBC, were blindfolded by the kidnappers and “tossed into the back of a truck,” NBC’s Web site said. From that point on, NBC had no contact with Mr. Engel or the crew. The network’s Web sitesaid there was “no claim of responsibility, no contact with the captors and no request for ransom during the time the crew was missing,”

The site said the crew members were being moved to a new location on Monday night “when their captors ran into a checkpoint manned by members of the Ahrar al-Sham brigade, a Syrian rebel group. There was a confrontation and a firefight ensued. Two of the captors were killed, while an unknown number of others escaped.” The rebels helped escort the crew to the Syrian border.

NBC attempted to keep the crew’s disappearance a secret for several days while it sought to ascertain their whereabouts. Its television competitors and many other major news organizations, including The New York Times, refrained from reporting on the situation, in part out of fears that any reporting could further endanger the crew. A similar arrangement, sometimes called a blackout, was reached after a reporter for The Times, David Rohde, was kidnapped in Afghanistan in 2008. Mr. Rohde and a local reporter escaped after seven months in captivity.

In the case of Mr. Engel, some Web sites reported speculation about his disappearance on Monday. NBC declined to comment until the crew members were safely out of Syria on Tuesday.

Engel spoke on Today this morning:

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Glad to see he’s safe.

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FILED UNDER: Media, Quick Takes,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Phillip says:

    This is a real concern for journalists now :link

  2. Franklin says:

    Happy for the outcome this time; apparently some thanks are due to at least some of the Syrian rebels.

  3. C. Clavin says:

    sniff, sniff…Is that a movie deal I smell???

  4. rudderpedals says:

    @Phillip: Scary article you linked to. I suppose it explains the widespread lack of bylines for print articles out of Syria.

  5. KariQ says:

    We can all be glad that these individuals are safe. I can’t imagine how relieved their loved ones must feel.