Kidnapped Spanish journalists freed from Syrian captivity

Kidnapped Spanish journalists freed from Syrian captivity
Three Spanish journalists have been freed safely from their Syrian captors, after being kidnapped in Aleppo city by gunmen nearly a year ago.
3 min read
Family and friends held a press conference soon after the Spanish journalists' disapearance [AFP]

Three Spanish journalists kidnapped in Syria's Aleppo city last year have been freed by their captors.

The trio were last seen in July 2015 in the northern city of Aleppo where they had been reporting on fighting.

"All three have been released, Antonio Pampliega, Jose Manuel Lopez and Angel Sastre, and are on their way (to Spain)," added FAPE President Elsa Gonzalez.

War reporting

A Spanish government spokeswoman in a statement confirmed the release "a few hours ago", adding that "all three are well".

"[It was] possible thanks to the collaboration of allies and friends especially in the final phase from Turkey and Qatar."

After the men disappeared, Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo said officials were working with members of Spain's National Intelligence Centre who were in Syria to try and secure their release.

Pampliega, a freelance war reporter born in 1982, contributed to AFP's text coverage of the civil war in Syria for a period up to 2013.

Lopez, born in 1971, is a prize-winning photographer who contributed images to AFP from several war zones, including from the Syrian conflict up until 2013 and Iraq in 2014.

Sastre, 35, had also worked in trouble spots around the world for Spanish television, radio and press.

Islamic State group territories [accurate from January 2016]

Frontline reporting

Media rights group Reporters Without Borders in 2015 ranked Syria as the most dangerous country in the world for journalists, along with Iraq.

It says ten journalists died in 2015 in Syria, where rebels are trying to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

The release of the three follows the freeing in 2013 of three other Spanish journalists.

El Mundo correspondent Javier Espinosa, freelance photographer Ricardo Garcia Vilanova and Marc Marginedas of El Periodico newspaper were all released after being seized by the Islamic State group.

In August 2014, the group decapitated US journalist James Foley, who was seized in northern Syria in 2012.

The following month, the group murdered fellow US journalist Steven Sotloff.

In 2015, militants from the group beheaded Japanese war correspondent Kenji Goto.

Last month a video emerged of another Japanese journalist, Jumpei Yasuda, apparently asking for Tokyo's help in securing his release.

A British journalist, John Cantlie, who was kidnapped alongside James Foley, has appeared in a series of propaganda videos released by IS, in which he speaks to the camera in the style of a news report.

The last such video, supposedly filmed in the group's Iraqi stronghold of Mosul, was released by the group in March.

RSF has condemned IS for its "cowardly" use of a hostage in a forced role to push jihadi' propaganda.