Spanish journalists kidnapped in Syria return to Madrid

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Spanish journalists kidnapped in Syria return to Madrid

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Two Spanish journalists held hostage in Syria since September are back in Madrid after being freed and handed over to the Turkish military.

Javier Espinosa and Ricardo Garcia Vilanova were seized by al Qaeda-linked rebels as they tried to leave the country after two weeks covering the conflict.

Espinosa, who is the Middle East correspondent for El Mundo, called the newsroom to let them know he and
freelance photographer Ricardo Garcia Vilanovan were safe and in good health.

El Mund’s Deputy chief Agustín Pery described the moment: “It was Javier just as he always was, absolutely calm. At the same time we were all laughing and clapping and crying”.

The kidnapping had been kept quiet until December while negotiations with the rebels took place.

“They gave us proof that they were alive. Since then, negotiations were essentially focused on proving to this group that Javier and Ricardo are journalists doing their journalistic job and that they are not spies.” said Casimiro García-Abadillo, El Mundo’s Chief-editor.

The two were among scores of journalists believed to have been kidnapped or killed by rebel fighters in Syria since the start of the civil war in 2011.