Tue | Sep 25, 2018

Three Spanish reporters freed after 10 months captivity in Syria

Published:Monday | May 9, 2016 | 12:00 AM
The three freed Spanish journalists: Antonio Pampliega (right), José Manuel Lopez (left), and Ángel Sastre arrive at the Torrejon military airbase in Madrid, Spain.


Three Spanish freelance journalists held captive in Syria for nearly 10 months returned home yesterday, tearfully hugging relatives as they got off a military jet sent to Turkey to bring them back.

Antonio Pampliega, JosÈ Manuel LÛpez, and ¡ngel Sastre shook hands with Deputy Prime Minister Soraya S·enz de SantamarÌa on the tarmac of the TorrejÛn de Ardoz air force base on the outskirts of Madrid. They then smiled and cried as relatives ran to hug them.

Images on Spain's state-owned TVE television channel showed their arrival, but reporters were kept outside the base and away from the three journalists, only catching sight of a dark blue van carrying them from the base.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy posted a photograph of the journalists descending from the aircraft with a caption saying "Welcome!" on his official Twitter account.

"Allied and friendly" countries had assisted in ensuring the journalists' release, his office said in a statement late Saturday.

It highlighted Turkey and Qatar, saying they had helped out, "especially in the final phase" of the journalists' liberation.

It provided no information on the captors and how they were convinced to give up the journalists.

The three journalists went missing on July 12, near the city of Aleppo in northern Syria. At the time, the region was under the control of al-Qaida's branch in Syria known as the Nusra Front.

Foreign Minister JosÈ Manuel GarcÌa-Margallo y Marfil said the journalists had taken off "at midnight from a city in southeast Turkey called Hatay", accompanied by Ambassador Pablo Gutierrez Segou, head of consular emergencies.

TVE said in its afternoon news bulletin that the journalists had gone to a cafÈ in Madrid with their friends and relatives, where they received a phone call from King Felipe VI. They told journalists that they had no idea what part of Syria they had been held captive in.