Two Times of London journalists escape captivity in Syria

New York, May 15, 2014–The Committee to Protect Journalists is relieved by a report by the Times of London that said two of its journalists escaped captivity near the Turkish border in Syria on Wednesday. Anthony Loyd, a correspondent, and Jack Hill, a photographer, escaped their unidentified assailants with the help of the rebel group Islamic Front, the paper said.

The kidnapping attempt follows multiple releases of abducted international journalists in Syria, including three Spanish and four French journalists who were reportedly held by the Al-Qaeda splinter group Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS). The Islamic Front has been central in confronting ISIS across northern Syria. As ISIS’s position diminished in recent months, more journalists have begun to return to rebel-held territory.  

More than 80 local and international journalists have been abducted since the Syrian conflict began in 2011, according to CPJ research. Approximately 25 remain missing.

“Some journalists have begun returning in greater numbers into Syria recently, thinking that the security situation may have improved,” said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. “But the horrifying experience of Anthony Loyd and Jack Hill serves only to remind us all of the terrible risks that journalists still face in trying to cover this conflict.”

According to the Times, the journalists were returning to Turkey after several days of reporting from Aleppo when they, along with their unnamed Syrian fixer, were abducted and taken to the nearby town of Tall Rifat. The journalists tried to escape, but were beaten and Loyd was shot twice in the leg to prevent him from running, the report said. The fixer escaped.

The report said the journalists were held captive by the same group they believed to be protecting them as they crossed the border into Turkey. The report did not specify the identity of the captors or the duration the journalists were held in captivity. Soldiers from the rebel Islamic Front, which had provided security for the journalists, confronted the abductors and secured their release, the report said.

An unidentified source who helped the journalists return to Turkey told the Times, “[The captors] had dollar signs in their eyes when they realised they had two Western journalists. What they did not anticipate was loads of the Islamic Front turning up on their doorstep to get them back.”

  • For more data and analysis, visit CPJ’s Syria page here.