Three Spanish journalists, who had been kidnapped while freelance reporting in war-torn Syria, have been released and returned home to Spain after 10 months held in captivity. The three men arrived in Madrid aboard a Spanish defence ministry jet from Turkey and, upon arrival, were met by family and friends.
Antonio Pampliega, Jose Manuel Lopez and Angel Sastre went missing from the northern city of Aleppo on 12 July, 2015. According to the BBC, the three men appear to have been captives of Al Qaeda's Syria affiliate, the Al Nusra Front, however details of their capture and their release have not yet been disclosed.
Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy posted a photo of the three journalists arriving in Madrid with a caption welcoming them home. Rajoy's office released a statement late on Saturdat (7 May) noting that "allied and friendly" countries, such as Turkey and Qatar, had helped ensure the the safe release of the reporters.
"This adventure has ended happily," Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo said.
The three men appeared in good health and were reportedly treated well by their captors, Spanish news agency EFE reported. On arrival in Spain, the men were welcomed by jubilant family members and friends, as well as Deputy Prime Minister, Soraya Saenz de Santamaria, at Torrejon de Ardoz air force base, on the outskirts of Madrid.
According to RTVE, after arriving, the journalists went to a Madrid cafeteria with their loved ones, where they received a phone call from King Felipe VI. The experienced war correspondents told reporters that they did not know where they had been held captive.
Lopez said the three men were incarcerated together during the first three months of captivity, but Pampliega was later taken away and not seen again until just before the men returned home.
Maria del Mar Rodriguez, Pampliega's mother, told Reporters Without Borders that it was "marvellous" to speak to her son. "He had the same voice he's always had, since he was a boy, and he continually asked my forgiveness for what he'd put me through," she said. "I'm going to prepare him a plate of spinach in béchamel sauce, his favourite dish."
In 2014, following months of captivity in Syria, two other Spanish journalists were freed and returned home. Reporters Without Borders ranks Syria the deadliest country in the world for journalists.