By GREGORY KATZ
LONDON (AP) — The last missing member of an NBC team that was kidnapped in Syria has been freed, NBC News executives said Wednesday.
Ian Rivers was part of the NBC team led by the network’s chief foreign correspondent, Richard Engel. They were kidnapped in Syria on Thursday but Engel and several other members escaped unharmed on Monday.
NBC said in a statement that Rivers got separated from the rest of the team as the men escaped from captivity during a firefight between their captors and Syrian rebels. The network said he is “said to be in good condition” and will be evaluated in Turkey once he crosses the border.
“All of us at NBC News can breathe a huge sigh of relief and express our deep appreciation to all who helped secure their freedom,” NBC News President Steve Capus said.
Rivers, an NBC News technical support staffer, was expected to travel on to the U.S. or the U.K., said Gillan McNay, the operations manager for the U.K.-based security firm Pilgrims Group, which has been working with NBC on security matters.
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Appearing on NBC’s “Today” show Tuesday, an unshaven Engel said more than a dozen pro-regime gunmen dragged him and his colleagues from their car, killed one of their rebel escorts and subjected them to mock executions.
He said they escaped during a firefight Monday night between their captors and rebels at a checkpoint.
Engel said he believes the kidnappers were a Shiite militia group loyal to the Syrian government, which has lost control over swaths of the country’s north and is increasingly on the defensive in a civil war that has killed 40,000 people since March 2011.
“They kept us blindfolded, bound,” said the 39-year-old Engel, who speaks and reads Arabic. “We weren’t physically beaten or tortured. A lot of psychological torture, threats of being killed. They made us choose which one of us would be shot first and when we refused, there were mock shootings.”
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Syria is by far the deadliest country for the news media in 2012, with 28 journalists killed in combat or targeted for murder by government or opposition forces.
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