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Some of us started hearing rumblings and whispers of this over the weekend, but NBC came out very quickly and begged people to remain silent on about this on social media. Whether or not their discretion was helpful I don't know, but this was really the best possible outcome to have:
The abduction and detention of the NBC correspondent Richard Engel and several colleagues by armed men inside Syria this week ended well Tuesday. Although the full story isn’t clear, their saviors seem to have been fighters from an Islamist rebel group, one of several operating in the area, called Ahrar al Sham, and they appear to have been held by a Shiite militia loyal to the Assad regime. (Most of Syria’s population is Sunni, as are most of the rebels, while the Assad regime is Alawite, members of a minority sect of Shiite Islam.) The militiamen were in the process of moving their hostages by vehicles when rival fighters stopped them. In the firefight that ensued, two of their captors were killed and Engel and his companions freed. They were very fortunate; their initial abduction had also involved a gunfight, in which one of their rebel escorts was killed.
Hostage-taking has become part of the landscape of the war in Syria. (Richard Engel has said that his captors spoke of their intentions to trade him and his colleagues for several Lebanese and Iranian citizens believed held by the rebels.) There are a number of foreign reporters missing and presumably being held by one or another faction in Syria, including Austin Tice, an American freelancer and veteran whose work has appeared in the Washington Post and who was reporting from behind rebel lines when he vanished in August. His family has publicly pleaded for his safe return, and reiterated their call after the news of Engel’s release.
The Middle East has become increasingly more dangerous for journalists. Hundreds of them have been threatened, assaulted, jailed, intimidated and even killed during the past several decades. Given the amount of time Engel has spent reporting from areas under great tumult, it's truly amazing that he's avoided this kind of attack up to this point. But it's a testament to his dedication as a journalist (a title I do not bestow lightly) that he has remained there for so long.
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