Kidnapped journalists escape during firefight in Syria


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The Independent Online

Richard Engel, the chief foreign correspondent for the US network NBC, told yesterday how he and his television crew were kidnapped for five days by Syrian pro-regime gunmen who subjected them to mock executions and kept them bound and blindfolded.

They escaped during a firefight between their captors and rebels and reached Turkey yesterday. However, it was not immediately clear whether all those abducted with Engel were accounted for.

Speaking to NBC's Today show one day after the escape, an unshaven Engel said the kidnappers executed at least one of his rebel escorts on the spot at the time he was captured. He also said he believes the kidnappers were a Shia militia group loyal to the Syrian government, which is fighting a deadly civil war against the rebels.

NBC did not identify the others who were kidnapped along with Engel. The network said there was no claim of responsibility, no contact with the captors and no request for ransom during the time the crew was missing.

Also yesterday, Russia's Interfax news agency reported that Moscow has dispatched warships to the Mediterranean in case it needs to evacuate its citizens trapped by the civil war. Their deployment points to growing concern in Moscow, a staunch ally of Mr Assad, about rebel advances on Damascus.