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Relief at release of two Spanish journalist held hostage in Syria

Spanish reporter Javier Espinosa, reacts as his soon Yerai runs towards him upon his arrival at the military airport of Torrejon in Madrid, Spain, Sunday, March 30, 2014.

Two Spanish journalists held more than six months in Syria arrived home Sunday, Spain's El Mundo newspaper reported. El Mundo staff correspondent Javier Espinosa and freelance photographer Ricardo Garcia Vilanova embraced family and friends during a joyous reunion on the tarmac of the Torrejon de Ardoz military airport in Madrid.

Javier Espinosa, a veteran correspondent for the Spanish daily El Mundo, and Ricardo García Vilanova, a freelance photographer working with him, were handed over to Turkish authorities on Saturday night near the Syrian town of Tal Abiyad, not far from where they were seized 194 days ago, according to the Guardian newspaper.

The pair had been held in the nearby city of Raqaa, which fell to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) last May and remains a stronghold of the radical organisation even after an internecine fight with other Syrian opposition groups, who ousted them from nearby Idlib and Aleppo province over the past month.

It was militants from the al-Qaida-breakaway Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant that abducted Espinosa and Garcia Vilanova at a checkpoint in the town of Tal Abyad in the eastern province of Raqqa on Sept. 16. The two men, who have frequently traveled to Syria to cover the fight between President Bashar Assad and the rebels seeking to oust him, were on their way out of the country after a two-week reporting trip when they were seized.

“We are delighted by the release of Espinosa and García Vilanova, which follows that of another Spanish journalist, Marc Marginedas, on 2 March, and we hope that all the other professional and amateur journalists who are hostages or in prison in Syria will also be freed soon,” said Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Christophe Deloire. The families told the Spanish section of Reporters Without Borders, with which they have been in constant contact since their abduction, that they were “crazy with joy” and “very excited.”

ISIS reportedly continues to hold other Syrian and foreign news providers, including four French journalists: Didier François, Edouard Elias, Nicolas Hénin and Pierre Torrès. A total of 15 foreign journalists and more than 20 Syrian news providers are still hostages or missing in Syria, while the government is holding around 40 Syrian journalists and citizen-journalists in its jails.

Date posted: March 31, 2014 Last modified: May 12, 2018 Total views: 181