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December 10, 2013

Two Spanish journalists held hostage in Syria

By Rachel Banning-Lover

A Spanish reporter and a freelance photographer are being held hostage in Syria by a group linked to Al Qaeda Spanish newspaper El Mundo said today.

El Mundo’s veteran reporter Javier Espinosa and freelance photographer Ricardo Garcia Vilanova were seized on 16 September.

The two men were kidnapped along with four members of the Free Syrian Army rebel group at the Tal Abyad checkpoint in the northern province of Raqqa as they were trying to leave the country, after spending two weeks reporting on the aftermath of the civil war in the province of Deir Ezzor, El Mundo reported today.  The Syrians were later released.

The paper identified the kidnappers as the Islamic State of Iraq and a Syrian group known by its initials, ISIS.

El Mundo said it had refrained from publicising the news until now because their families had been trying to make contact with the captors.

Espinosa has been a Middle East correspondent for El Mundo since 2002, and is based in Beirut.

Last year, the journalist survived the same blast in Homs that killed Sunday Times Journalist Marie Colvin. He was previously kidnapped while reporting in Sierra Leone in 1999, according to the Latin American Herald Tribune.

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Vilanova is a freelance photographer and videojournalist who has worked with a host of publications and broadcasters and collaborated with Human Rights Watch and the UN.  His work with CNN covering Syria has been nominated for several awards, according to his website.

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