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Syria crisis: Kidnapped Spanish journalists freed

Two Spanish journalists kidnapped in Syria six months ago by radical Islamist rebels have been released.

Spanish newspaper El Mundo said its Middle East correspondent, Javier Espinosa, had phoned the newsroom to say that he had been freed along with photographer Ricardo Garcia Vilanova.

Mr Espinosa said they had been handed over to Turkish soldiers.

Scores of journalists are believed to have been kidnapped or killed by rebel fighters in Syria.

Mr Espinosa and Mr Vilanova were seized by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) near the Turkish border in September.

El Mundo said at the time the two journalists had been trying to leave Syria at the end of a two-week reporting mission when they were taken.

Four members of the Free Syrian Army – the main Western-backed rebel group – who were protecting them were also captured but later released.

High risk

The Spanish daily said the kidnapping was initially kept quiet at the request of the men’s families.

Many kidnappings have been played down in the hope of aiding negotiations.

The journalists are expected back in Madrid on Sunday, the paper said.

In December, 13 major international news organisations signed a letter urging Syrian rebel groups to stop kidnapping journalists, and to free those who are currently held.

Correspondents say ISIS assumes that all foreign journalists and aid workers in Syria are spies and has issued orders to arrest them.

The high risk of kidnapping has made many rebel-held areas of Syria no-go areas for most foreign journalists.

The Free Syrian Army’s political wing – the Syrian National Coalition – says it is committed to protecting journalists, and securing the release of hostages.

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