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Abducted Swedish journalists released in Syria

Wednesday - 1/8/2014, 12:20pm  ET

KARL RITTER
Associated Press

STOCKHOLM (AP) -- Two Swedish journalists who were abducted in Syria in November have been released, Swedish and Red Cross officials said Wednesday.

Sweden's Foreign Ministry confirmed the release of writer Magnus Falkehed and photographer Niclas Hammarstrom, and said both were receiving assistance from Swedish diplomats in Beirut.

The two freelance journalists were abducted as they were on their way out of Syria in November.

Swedish authorities wouldn't say who abducted them or how they were set free. But national police spokeswoman Jessica Krasser Fremnell said Swedish police had worked closely with other authorities to secure their release.

"We are grateful that they are safe," Krasser Fremnell said.

The International Committee of the Red Cross helped transport one of the journalists on Wednesday from the Syrian-Lebanese border town of Arsal to Beirut, where he was handed over to Swedish Embassy officials, said Samar el Kadi, an ICRC official in Beirut. The other journalist returned to Beirut earlier on his own, she said.

El Kadi said the ICRC was not involved in negotiations for their release, adding that the transport was carried out upon the embassy's request.

Their state of health was not immediately clear.

"Great relief that the two Swedish journalists are out of Syria. But unfortunately there are still others held against their will," Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt wrote on Twitter.

Press advocacy groups say Syria has become the most dangerous country in the world for reporters over the past two years, with kidnappings becoming a major threat.

Jihadi groups are believed responsible for most kidnappings since the summer, but government-backed militias, criminal gangs and rebels affiliated with the Western-backed Free Syrian Army also have been involved with various motives. Most kidnappings since the summer have taken place in rebel-held territories, particularly in chaotic northern and eastern Syria, where militant al-Qaida-linked groups hold influence.

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Associated Press writers Zeina Karam in Beirut and Malin Rising in Stockholm contributed to this report.


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