In an update to a story we brought you yesterday, NBC News chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel was freed by his captures on Monday night after being held captive for five days in Syria, according to the New York Times. Also released were three others working with Engel. All of them were not harmed.
“We are pleased to report they are safely out of the country,” according to a release from the network.
It is still not known who the kidnappers were or what their motive was. Engel was quoted in an article on the NBC News website that said the captors “were talking openly about their loyalty to the government” of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Engel was last seen on television on Thursday during a taped report from Aleppo, the commercial capital of Syria. During that report, Engel reported that “the Syrian regime appears to be cracking, but the rebels remain outgunned.”
Engel and his crew tried to cross the border into Turkey so they could transmit their report safely but that is when they were captured. On the “Today” show Tuesday morning, Engel said that close to 15 men “just literally jumped out of the trees and bushes” and “dragged us out of the car.” Engel noted that one of the rebels traveling with the crew of journalists was killed by the kidnappers.
According to the website for NBC, there was “no claim of responsibility, no contact with the captors and no request for ransom during the time the crew was missing.”
Engel noted on the show this morning that his kidnappers were planning to swap the crew for others being held by Syrian rebels. “We were told that they wanted to exchange us for four Iranian agents and two Lebanese people who are from the Amal movement,” he said.
The website also said that the crew was released when the kidnappers “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.”
“We are very happy to be back in Turkey,” Engel said. He was talking to cameras at Cilvegozu border gates in Turkey. “The last five days are the days that we want to forget.”
On the “Today” show, Engel said, “They made us choose which one of us would be shot first, and when we refused there were mock shootings. They pretended to shoot Ghazi several times.”
When Engel was promoted to chief foreign correspondent in 2008, NBC News president Steve Capus said, “There aren’t enough superlatives to describe the work that Richard has done in some of the most dangerous places on earth for NBC News. His reporting, his expertise on the situation in the Middle East, his professionalism and his commitment to telling the story of what is happening there is unparalleled.”