NBC News' Chief Foreign Correspondent Richard Engel (Photo Credit: Twitter/@RichardEngel)
BEIRUT (TheBlaze/AP) -- It's confirmed. NBC's chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel and his production team were released unharmed Tuesday after being held captive for five days inside Syria by an "unknown group," the network said. On Monday, TheBlaze initially reported about claims that Engel had been kidnapped -- an occurrence that NBC was initially quiet about.
Engel, 39, has been reporting on the Syrian civil war, which has killed more than 40,000 people since March 2011.
"After being kidnapped and held for five days inside Syria by an unknown group, NBC News Chief Foreign Correspondent Richard Engel and his production crew members have been freed unharmed," NBC said in a statement. "We are pleased to report they are safely out of the country."
The Syrian government has made it difficult for foreign journalists and citizens to report on what is happening in Syria.
Those journalists whom the regime has allowed in are tightly controlled in their movements by Information Ministry minders. Other foreign journalists sneak into Syria illegally with the help of smugglers.
"We were driving in Syria about five days ago in what we thought was a rebel-controlled area. We were with some of the rebels and as we were moving down the road, a group of gunman just literally jumped out of the trees and bushes on the side of the road."
Several journalists have been killed covering the conflict. Among them are award-winning French TV reporter Gilles Jacquier, photographer Remi Ochlik and Britain's Sunday Times correspondent Marie Colvin. Also, Anthony Shadid, a correspondent for The New York Times, died after a severe asthma attack while on assignment in Syria.
Engel joined NBC in 2003 and was named NBC's chief foreign Correspondent in April 2008. He previously worked as a freelance journalist for ABC News, including during the U.S. invasion of Iraq. He has lived in the Middle East since he graduated from Stanford University in 1996, according to his biography from NBC. He speaks and reads fluent Arabic.