Two Swedish journalists, who were abducted in Syria in November 2013, have been freed, the Associated Press reported. Sweden’s Foreign Ministry confirmed the release of photographer Niclas Hammarstrom on Jan. 5 and reporter Magnus Falkehed on Jan. 8, after a month and a half in captivity.
Nicals Hammarstrom (left) and Magnus Falkehed.
A kidnapped Turkish photojournalist, Bunyamin Aygun, was also released on Jan. 5. Agyun, who worked for the Istanbul daily, Milliyet, was also abducted in November last year by armed Syrian opposition groups.
Bunyamin Aygun (center-left) is surrounded by friends a day after his release, in Istanbul, Turkey on Jan. 6. AP Photo/Ozan Guzelce, Milliyet
While Swedish officials declined to say who kidnapped the two journalists and why, Hammarstrom told a local paper that they were kidnapped by criminals on Nov. 23. He said his captors shot him in his left leg during an escape attempt a few days later.
Hans and Gudrun Hammarstrom, parents of photographer Niclas Hammarstrom (seen on the right of the screen), watch the news about the release of their son in their home in Soderhamn, in northern Sweden, on Jan. 8. Tt News Agency / Reuters
Hammarstrom also said he and Falkehed were beaten “thoroughly with different weapons.” However, he said, the kidnappers brought a doctor to tend to his wounds and he remained in good physical condition during captivity apart from weight loss.
Turkish journalists demand the release Magnus Falkehed and other abducted journalists from Syria at a protest in Ankara, Turkey, in December 2013. AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici, File
Aygun, who has won awards for his photographs of Syria’s civil war, was kidnapped by groups believed to have ties to al-Qaeda. After his release, he was handed over to a team of Turkish intelligence officers in Syria near Turkey’s border.
Bunyamin Aygun rests at a hotel after his release, in Antakya, Turkey, on Sunday, Jan. 5. AP Photo/Yurttas Tumes, Milliyet
Syria is now seen as one of the most dangerous countries for reporters. A journalist was kidnapped in Syria more than once a week in 2013, according to research by the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Hundreds of Turkish journalists called for the immediate release of Aygun and all journalists kidnapped in Syria during a protest in Istanbul, Turkey. AP Photo/Emrah Gurel
Apart from jihadi groups, criminal gangs, government-supported militias, and rebel groups backed by the West, are also responsible for kidnappings of journalists. Most abductions take place in rebel strongholds which have a strong al-Qaeda influence.
A poster calling for the release of French journalists Didier Francois, Edouard Elias, Nicolas Henin, and Pierre Torres, who have been abducted in Syria, is installed on the facade of the Île-de-France regional council headquarters in Paris on Jan. 6. Benoit Tessier / Reuters