NBC's Engel Details 5 Days in Syria Captivity

Foreign correspondent and team were rescued yesterday

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted Dec 18, 2012 5:39 AM CST | Updated Dec 18, 2012 9:38 AM CST

(Newser) – Five days after their kidnapping in Syria, an NBC News team has been "freed unharmed," the network says. "We are pleased to report they are safely out of the country." The release of chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel and his crew followed a firefight at a checkpoint yesterday, NBC News reports. The group had been out of contact since entering northwest Syria from Turkey on Thursday. This morning, Engel described the attack on the Today show. While his team was traveling with Syrian rebels, some 15 gunmen "jumped out the trees and bushes" to kidnap them. One of the rebels was immediately executed.

While they were held, "we weren't physically beaten or tortured. It was a lot of psychological torture, threats of being killed," Engel said. "They made us choose which one of us would be shot first and when we refused there were mock shootings." Engel believes the captors were part of the Assad loyalist militia "shabiha"; they spoke "openly about their loyalty to the government." The captors hoped to use the crew to win back rebel-held prisoners, Engel said. Last night, their captors hit a rebel checkpoint while transporting them. Two of the captors died in a firefight, while an unknown number of others escaped. The crew stayed in Syria overnight and returned to Turkey this morning, the network reports.

In this Monday, May 18, 2009 file photo, Richard Engel attends the Peabody Awards held at the Waldorf Astoria in New York.
In this Monday, May 18, 2009 file photo, Richard Engel attends the Peabody Awards held at the Waldorf Astoria in New York.   (AP Photo/Charles Sykes, File)
In this image made from video, NBC chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel exits a car after crossing back into Turkey, after they were freed unharmed.
In this image made from video, NBC chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel exits a car after crossing back into Turkey, after they were freed unharmed.   (AP Photo/Anadolu via AP TV)
This undated photo provided by NBC News shows Richard Engel at the end of a reporting trip in Syria in July 2012.
This undated photo provided by NBC News shows Richard Engel at the end of a reporting trip in Syria in July 2012.   (AP Photo/NBC News)
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Engel discusses his captivity.   (NBC News)

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