It was confirmed this morning that NBC News chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel, 39, was kidnapped along with his crew in Syria and subsequently released. The journalist detailed the horrific experience in an interview with “Today,” noting that his team witnessed the execution of a rebel, underwent psychological torture and survived a firefight, among other terrifying incidents.
Engel explained that the abduction occurred while he and the team, which included cameraman John Kooistra and producer Ghazi Balkiz, were traveling in what they assumed was a rebel-controlled area. But as the three NBC employees drove down a road, 15 armed men jumped out of trees and bushes, dragged them out of the car and proceeded to kidnap them. During the process, one of the rebels accompanying them was executed “on the spot,” the reporter said.
Over their time in captivity, the men were shifted between safe houses and forced to undergo psychological torture. They were blindfolded and bound and subjected to death threats and mock executions.
“We weren’t physically beaten or tortured. It was a lot of psychological torture, threats of being killed,” Engel calmly noted. ”They made us choose which one of us would be shot first and when we refused there were mock shootings. They pretended to shoot several times.”
NBC News has more about how the men were inevitably freed:
Early Monday evening local time, the prisoners were being moved to a new location in a vehicle when their captors ran into a checkpoint manned by members of the Ahrar al-Sham brigade, a Syrian rebel group. There was a confrontation and a firefight ensued. Two of the captors were killed, while an unknown number of others escaped, the network said.
The NBC News crew was unharmed in the incident. They remained in Syria until Tuesday morning when they made their way to the border and re-entered Turkey, the network said. They were to be evaluated and debriefed, but had communicated that everyone was in good health.
Watch Engel, Kooistra and Balkiz explain the incident in detail, below:
(H/T: NBC News)