On October 15, 2013, Iszhak Ould Mokhtar, a Mauritanian reporter working for the Abu Dhabi-based broadcaster Sky News Arabia, disappeared along with Lebanese photographer Samir Kassab while they were reporting in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, according to his employer, a statement released by Kassab’s family, and the regional press freedom group Skeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom.
The journalists’ driver also disappeared; his name has been withheld at the request of his family.
On April 1, 2019, Syrian journalist Louai Abo al-Joud, who was held hostage by the Islamic State militant group from November 28, 2013, to May 2, 2014, told CPJ that he believes that Kassab, Mokhtar, and the driver were being held in an Islamic State jail in the industrial area of Sheikh Najjar, northeast of Aleppo.
The jail held several foreign journalists, who were separated from the Syrians, al-Joud said.
On April 28, 2019, Razan Hamdan, Kassab’s fiancée, told CPJ that no group has ever claimed responsibility for the journalists’ abduction.
Hamdan told CPJ that several Syrian and French journalists who were kidnapped by the Islamic State and subsequently released, including Karam al-Masri, Nicolas Henin, and Pierre Torres, told her that Kassab, Mokhtar, and the driver were held in Sheikh Najjar. Henin and Torres were released in 2014, as CPJ reported at the time.
Mokhtar’s brother, Abdallah Ould Mokhtar, told CPJ on May 3, 2019, that testimonies from former Islamic State abductees, including al-Joud and al-Masri, have led the family to believe that Mokhtar is being held by the Islamic State.
“Our family has been unable to talk to him since he was abducted. Throughout this period, we have heard rumors and news, but we don’t have enough evidence to confirm their veracity,” Abdallah Ould Mokhtar told CPJ.