Islamic Extremists Rescue NBC Reporter Held in Syria
When Americans encounter jihadi groups in warzones, it can often mean captivity or even execution. Except in Syria, where they just rescued NBC News’ chief foreign correspondent from a days-long ordeal.
Six days ago, Richard Engel and his production team were captured while traveling in northwest Syria with a rebel group when they were taken captive by forces loyal to dictator Bashar Assad. One of the rebels was killed on sight by the 15 loyalist gunmen, and the American crew was subject to death threats and what Engel described as “psychological torture.” But the loyalist plan was to orchestrate an exchange of prisoners with the rebels. Until they ran into a leading Syrian jihadist group.
While Engel and his team were blindfolded and shoved into the back of a truck, the loyalists unwittingly stopped at a checkpoint run by Ahrar al-Sham. As Engel recounted on the Today Show Tuesday, fighters for the jihadist group confronted the loyalists and a firefight broke out, killing two of the loyalists. Ahrar al-Sham let Engel and his producers leave Syria unharmed, and posted the above video of the NBC team to its YouTube channel.
The U.S. is supposed to be in an epic global struggle with Islamic extremism. But the Arab revolutions of the past two years have shuffled the deck. Like with Libya in 2011, the U.S.’ sometimes-reluctant call for the ouster of regional dictators has put Washington effectively on the same side as some of the jihadist groups it fears will take power. In Syria, the U.S. is especially wary of the jihadi fighters, many of whom are believed to be veterans of al-Qaida in Iraq.