Last updated: 11 December, 2013

Jihadist site urges Syria militants to free journalists

An online forum that frequently features statements from jihadists has called on an Al-Qaeda-linked militant group to free two Spanish journalists who were kidnapped in September in Syria.

The Honein jihadist forum urged “our brothers the mujahedeen (holy warriors) in the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant” (ISIL) militant group to free reporter Javier Espinosa and photographer Ricardo Garcia Vilanova, in a statement accompanied by their photos posted online on Tuesday.

The site said the two journalists were a “good hand for advocating our issues in Iraq and Syria, and carrying the silenced truth,” adding “there are those among us who know them well, and were working with them to serve our issues.”

“They are only men endangering themselves to convey the truth,” it said.

Espinosa and Vilanova have been held by ISIL since September 16, according to a statement released on Tuesday by their families.

Espinosa had ventured into rebel areas of Syria a dozen times since the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad broke out in 2011.

On his last trip, he was reporting for Spanish daily El Mundo, whose Middle East bureau he heads, on the dismal living conditions for children and the sick.

Freelancer Vilanova, who has had his photographs published widely by both press agencies and humanitarian organisations, had already been kidnapped once before by ISIL in war-battered Aleppo.

His photographs have shown not only battles but also the wounded seeking treatment in the northern city’s Dar al-Shifa hospital, which has been destroyed by repeated government bombardment.

In addition to the high risk of violence in civil war-torn Syria, journalists have been increasingly targeted for kidnapping and abuses by jihadist fighters.

And last week, Iraqi cameraman Yasser Faisal al-Joumaili was executed in Idlib by ISIL while on the job.