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Richard Engel, NBC News’ chief foreign correspondent is safe after being held in Syria by captors for the past five days.
The network issued a short statement that Engel and his crew were “freed from captors in Syria after a firefight at a checkpoint on Monday, five days after they were taken prisoner,” reports CBS News. “We are pleased to report they are safely out of the country,” NBC added.
NBC did not say who Engel’s captors were, only noting that they are “not believed to be loyal to the Assad regime.” However, he told The Today Show this morning that he believes his captors were members of the “shabiha” militia, which is considered the secret police of the Assad regime.
Engel said his captors “were talking openly about their loyalty” to President Bashar Assad’s government, adding, “They captured us in order to carry out this exchange.”
NBC lost contact with Engel and his crew on Thursday and did not hear from him again until Monday, when they were freed. The network said it had no contact with the captors. They were not harmed during their captivity.
Engel is an experienced foreign correspondent for NBC and one of the most widely respected in his field. He covered the entire Iraq War and was recognized for his reporting during the Arab Spring last year.
Syria has been embroiled in a civil war since March 2011 and governments around the world have been calling for Assad’s resignation. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights believes that 40,000 people have died during the war.