Iraqi reporter Qais Talal was kidnapped by Islamic State militants from his house in Mosul, Iraq, in October 2014, colleagues of the missing journalist told CPJ. Talal worked for Sama Mosul, an independent pro-government channel established and funded by former Mosul governor Atheel Nujaifi.
Akram Tawfeek, who was the director of Sama Mosul before Islamic State forced the channel to close in June 2014, told CPJ in an interview in Irbil that he believed Talal was actually kidnapped in August 2014, two months after being questioned by militants. It was unclear why he was questioned, Tawfeek said.
A journalist based in Mosul until the summer of 2014, who asked not to be named for fear of repercussions, told CPJ that he had spoken with a friend of Talal’s family. According to the journalist, before the Eid al-Fitr celebration in 2015 there were rumors of an amnesty of hostages held by Islamic State to mark the holiday. Talal’s family asked around to see if he would be one of those freed, but were told by Islamic State militants he has been killed.
A journalist, who worked at Sama Mosul with Talal and who asked not to be named because of the sensitivities of the case, told CPJ when he spoke with Talal’s father on September 31, 2015. The father said the family did not know what happened to their son. They had heard many reports that he died, but said they had not received his body. The family said Talal’s name was not included on a September 2015 list of 2,070 people Islamic State claims to have killed.
In a meeting with CPJ, someone with knowledge of the journalist’s case and who asked not to be identified for fear of repercussions, said "sources inside Islamic State" confirmed to him that Talal had been killed, likely in the Syrian city of Raqqa.
A joint report by press freedom groups the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory and Reporters Without Borders, and statements that the Iraqi Observatory for Press Freedom and the Iraqi Journalism Syndicate emailed to CPJ also stated that Talal was shot dead in February 2015.
Tawfeek said he believes Talal is alive and being held hostage.
Yasser Hamdani, head of the Nineveh Media Foundation and the Mosul representative of Ibrahim al-Sragey’s Iraqi Journalist Rights Defense Association, told CPJ that, without a body, the two groups he works for would continue to consider Talal’s case as "enforced disappeared." The Nineveh Reporters Network said in an email to CPJ that it also describes the journalist as missing.
On May 1, 2020, Talal’s sister Balqees Talal told CPJ via messaging app that no new information had emerged about the fate of Talal since he was kidnapped in 2014.
“We heard the rumors that he was shot dead in February 2015, but these rumors are unconfirmed. There was also news that his body had been delivered to us, which isn’t true,” she said.
Talal’s sister also told CPJ that the Islamic State ran a radio station in Mosul that reported in early 2015 that a number of journalists, including Qais, had been transferred to Raqqa.
“A month later, we heard in the same radio station that he had been transferred back to Mosul and this was after February 2015,” she added.
According to Balqees Talal, the local authorities in Mosul have not investigated her brother’s disappearance.
“After the retaking of Mosul in July 2017, we heard that detainees who had been held by [the Islamic State] had been freed and transferred to Baghdad, to a prison facility called Al-Muthanna Airport,” she said, adding that the journalist’s family inquired with several human rights organizations and government and military officials about his status, but did not get any answers.