Spanish journalists freed from Syria captivity


Mon, Mar 31, 2014 - Page 6

Two Spanish journalists were freed after being held captive for six months in Syria by rogue al-Qaeda group the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, the newspaper that one of the men works for said yesterday.

The release of reporter Javier Espinosa and photographer Ricardo Garcia Vilanova brought the number of foreign correspondents missing to at least nine, with the whereabouts of 10 local reporters also unknown. It is believed that many more Syrian media activists are also in captivity.

Syria is the most dangerous conflict in the world to report on, partially because of the risk of kidnapping by both rebels or pro-government forces.

Espinosa and Vilanova had been held by the breakaway group since September last year after being detained at a checkpoint in the town of Tal Abyad in Raqqa Province, an area that the militants dominate.

The two journalists were trying to leave Syria at the time.

Espinosa made contact with Spain’s El Mundo late on Saturday from Turkey, where the two were in the care of the Turkish military, the newspaper said. They were expected to arrive in Spain yesterday.

The paper provided no further details on their release. It was not clear whether the two were freed by their captors or escaped.

Espinosa is widely respected as a brave correspondent. In February 2012, he was wounded in a shelling barrage by Syrian government forces on the city of Homs that killed French photojournalist Remi Ochlik and US reporter Marie Colvin, who was working for a British newspaper at the time. Espinosa’s life was saved by a wall that blocked the worst of the shrapnel.

Upon learning of the men’s release, Espinosa’s partner, fellow reporter Monica Garcia Prieto, simply tweeted: “Pure happiness.”