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Two Spanish Journalists Freed After More Than Six Months in Syria

MADRID — Two Spanish journalists held hostage in Syria by an al Qaeda-linked militant group for 194 days have been freed and handed over to the Turkish military in good health, one of the men told his employer, El Mundo newspaper.

El Mundo Middle East correspondent Javier Espinosa called the newspaper's newsroom late on Saturday to say he and freelance photographer Ricardo Garcia Vilanova had been released and to inform their families.

Spain's Foreign Ministry confirmed the men had been freed, but gave no further details.

Image: Spanish reporter Javier Espinosa, reacts as his son Yerai runs towards him upon his arrival at the military airport of Torrejon in Madrid
Spanish reporter Javier Espinosa, reacts as his son Yerai runs towards him upon his arrival at the military airport of Torrejon in Madrid, Spain, March 30. Paco Campos / Pool via AP

The two men were captured Sept. 16 by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) rebel group at the checkpoint Tal Abyad in the Raqqa province on the border with Turkey.

Their kidnapping had been kept quiet until Dec. 10 at the request of their families because of negotiations with the rebels holding the men.

Image: Spanish freelance photographer Ricardo Garcia Vilanova
Spanish freelance photographer Ricardo Garcia Vilanova, right, walks off a plane after being held six months held in Syria, is welcomed by Spanish First Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria, left, upon his arrival to Torrejon de Ardoz air base in Madrid province, central Spain, March 30. PACO CAMPOS / Pool via EPA

They had been travelling with members of the rebel Free Syrian Army, who were also taken by ISIL but released after 12 days.

The journalists had been attempting to leave Syria after two weeks covering the conflict when they were taken, the newspaper said.

— Reuters