(NEW YORK) — Richard Engel, the chief foreign correspondent at NBC News, and his production team have been released amid gunfire at a Syria checkpoint after they were taken prisoner in the civil war-torn country.
“After being kidnapped and held for five days inside Syria by an unknown group, NBC News Chief Foreign Correspondent Richard Engel and his production crew members have been freed unharmed. We are pleased to report they are safely out of the country,” NBC said in a statement.
Engel, 39, and his crew vanished Thursday after crossing into northwest Syria from Turkey, the network said, adding that there had been no contact between Engel and NBC since last week.
Engel and his crew were abducted, forced into the back of a truck and blindfolded upon entering Syria, according to the network’s statement. They were then transported to an unknown location, which is now believed to be near the town of Ma’arrat Misrin, about 30 miles southwest of Alappo.
Although they were blindfolded, no one was harmed while they were held captive, the network said. NBC officials said that they believe their abductors are not loyal to the Assad government.
Engel and his crew were being transported on Monday when the vehicle in which they were travelling came upon a checkpoint manned by members of the Syrian rebel group, the Ahrar al-Sham brigade. A firefight ensued, and two of the captors were killed, while an unknown number of others escaped, the network said.
Engel and the crew, who were unharmed in the incident, remained in Syria until Tuesday morning. They were driven to the Syria-Turkey border by the Ahrar al-Sham brigade, and then they re-entered Turkey.
The network “expressed its gratitude to those who worked to gather information and secure the release of our colleagues.”
Engel joined NBC in May 2003 and, after more than a decade of covering the Middle East, was named chief foreign correspondent of NBC News in April 2008.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Lorenzo Ferrigno, CNN
Lauren del Valle, CNN
Susan Scutti, CNN