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Kidnapped Spanish journalists ‘freed’ in Syria

Javier Espinosa and Ricardo Garcia-Vilanova were seized at a checkpoint near the Turkish border last year

Published: Updated:

Two Spanish journalists abducted in Syria last year by an al-Qaeda-linked group have been freed, El Mundo newspaper reported on Sunday.

“At 21:27 (Spanish time 2027 GMT Saturday) veteran El Mundo Middle East correspondent Javier Espinosa called the paper's newsroom and said they had been released and handed over to the Turkish military,” the newspaper said on its website, as quoted by Agence France-Presse.

Espinosa and fellow hostage freelance photographer Ricardo García Vilanova were kidnapped, along with a third Spanish journalist, at a checkpoint near the Turkish border as they tried to exit Syria at the end of a two-week reporting mission.

Espinosa called El Mundo's offices on Saturday evening and said they were in good health, it added. The paper said the two journalists would fly back to Madrid on Sunday, without specifying the time.

"Pure happiness," wrote Espinosa's girlfriend, the journalist Monica Garcia Prieto, on Twitter early Sunday, without giving further details.

"It has been a hard few months. We knew the wait would be long but you never get used to it," said the director of El Mundo's international pages, Ana Alonso Montes.

"You never know when the moment of liberation will come, although we never doubted it would," she told national radio.

The newspaper identified the captors earlier as members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS), a jihadist faction in Syria.

The newspaper had kept the kidnapping quiet until December while it contacted the captors via intermediaries. It said at that time that the kidnappers had made no demands.

The third kidnapped journalist, Marc Marginedas, a correspondent for Catalan daily El Periodico, was freed early this month.

While they were missing, Soazig Dollet, a spokesperson for Reporters Without Borders, told Al Arabiya News that all press freedom organizations, along with El Mundo, were working for their release.

Dollet said the group tries to provide more protection for journalists in Syria.

“We all fight for the release of journalists until the last minute and for the release of all journalists kidnapped or missing in Syria,” she said.

(with AFP)