In Skirmish, Syrian opposition fighters rescue kidnapped Turkey reporter

A Turkish reporter working for the NBC TV news network who was kidnapped in Syria last Wednesday was released on Tuesday and is waiting to enter Turkey.

Turkey’s NTV news channel reported on Tuesday that Turkish correspondent for NBC Aziz Akyavas is currently at the border gate in the Reyhanlı district of Hatay province, waiting as part of official procedures as his passport was seized by his captors.

After the reporter went missing in Syria the station was unable to reach him for four days. The Turkish journalist was reporting from the region. Along with Akyavas, NBC was also unable to reach its Middle East bureau chief, Richard Engel, who was also reporting from inside Syria.

Akyavas told NTV that he and his colleague were captured by a group linked to the Syrian army and held in various locations blindfolded and handcuffed for several days.

He said he didn’t know the exact location of their captivity because they could not see. He said his and Engel’s captors were transferring them to new villages constantly. He said they were not subject to physical abuse but they were humiliated, mock executed and given no food. He said the captors asked them to talk to a camera, identify themselves and ask their government to rescue them, telling them that the video would be posted on YouTube.

Akyavas said he knows that NBC, the Turkish Foreign Ministry and several other institutions he could identify helped secure his release. He said his captors were transferring him to another village Monday night when an opposition group confronted the car and started shooting in the air.

The kidnappers did not heed the warning and fired directly at the opposition group, prompting a return of fire. In the skirmish, the driver and a man sitting in the front in the car were killed. Akyavas recalled that when the two men were killed, the other two men sitting with him in the back of the car took control of the vehicle, made a U-turn and escaped, leaving him behind. He said all of his equipment, including clothing, was taken away. He said he was kept with his colleague and the captors prohibited him from talking to other captives or phoning family members.

The Turkish reporter said he does not currently know where Engel is. Last month, a Turkish journalist held in Syria for three months by a group alleged to be linked to the Syrian government was released. Cuneyt Unal, who works for the US-funded al-Hurra television channel, went missing with Jordanian colleague Bashar Fahmi Kadumi shortly after crossing into Syria from Turkey on Aug. 20 to cover the civil war in the war-torn city of Aleppo. Palestinian journalist Kadumi, who was captured at the same time as Unal, has not yet been released.

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