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Syrian Army soldiers loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad forces are seen in Idlib, Syria on January 21, 2018. Territory in and around Idlib has frequently changed hands in the past weeks and months of the conflict. (Reuters/SANA handout)

Syrian journalist assaulted by gunmen in northwestern Syria

March 7, 2018 3:46 PM ET

Eight unidentified gunmen on March 1, 2018, assaulted Mohamed Abdulqader Sbeh, a reporter for the independent news website Madar Today, in the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib, according to the Syrian Journalist Association and the journalist's employer.

Sbeh told CPJ he was returning from the town of Hish, south of Idlib, on March 1 at 9 a.m. when the group of men stopped him at a junction along a road in the village of Sheikh Dames, which is located between Hish and the village of Kafarsajneh.

"One of the gunmen asked me for my ID, which I didn´t have with me. Then they asked me: 'Are you the journalist Mohamed Sbeh?' I answered that I was, and the gunman and his colleagues began to hit me with their weapons in my back and chest, causing bruises, and to insult me, calling me dog. They also seized my laptop and cell phone," Sbeh said.

At the time of the attack, Sbeh was returning to Kafarsajneh after submitting a monthly report for his employer about the security situation in Idlib, he said.

Sbeh said that he does not know who his attackers were.

The area around Idlib has frequently changed hands in the past months of the Syrian conflict, according to news reports. As of March 7, 2018, the Turkish-backed Ahrar al-Sham militia group, which is allied with the Syrian Liberation Front, was in control of the area.

Sbeh has previously had altercations with local militia groups vying for power. The Syrian militant group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, an al-Qaeda-affiliated group formerly known as al-Nusra Front, detained Sbeh at his home in the village of Kafrasjana in late February 2017, Sbeh told CPJ. He was released two weeks after his initial capture, according to news reports and the Syrian Journalists Association.

Hayat Tahrir al-Sham has since lost control of this area, according to the reports.

Syria is one of the deadliest countries in the world for journalists. At least 116 journalists have been killed there since the conflict began in 2011, according to CPJ research.

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