Richard Engel and his production crew were in captivity for five days, but made it out physically unscathed to be reunited with friends and family.
NBC News reported Tuesday morning that their Chief Foreign Correspondent, Richard Engel, and members of his crew had been released in Syria. The network released a statement saying,
After being kidnapped and held for five days inside Syria by an unknown group, NBC News Chief Foreign Correspondent Richard Engel and his production crew members have been freed unharmed. We are pleased to report they are safely out of the country.
Although there is no official report on who was responsible for the kidnapping, NBC reports that in listening to the conversations between the captors Mr. Engel had a “very good idea” of who they were. The report says,
Their captors ‘were talking openly about their loyalty to the government’ of Syrian President Bashar Assad … [Engel believes they were] members of the “shabiha” militia, loyal to Assad, trained by the Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and allied with Lebanon-based group Hezbollah … Their captors’ plan was to use them to win the freedom of people held by the rebels.
Engel and his team were abducted last Thursday shortly after entering Syria from Turkey. According to the network, they were thrown into the back of a truck and transported to an unknown location. They were freed when their abductors, who were moving the prisoners to a different location, were stopped at a checkpoint manned by members of the Syrian rebel group Ahrar al-Sham. During the confrontation between the two groups two of the captors were killed and a number of others escaped. None of the NBC News crew were harmed in the incident. According to the statement released by NBC News,
They [the crew] remained in Syria until Tuesday morning when they made their way to the border and re-entered Turkey, the network said. They were to be evaluated and debriefed, but had communicated that everyone was in good health.
Richard Engel, who is regarded as one of the leading foreign correspondents in America, has covered political transitions, revolutions, and wars across the globe. He was also one of the only Western journalists to cover the war in Iraq in its entirety.