01:40 - Source: CNN
Spanish journalists freed from Syria

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Three Spanish journalists went missing in northern Syrian city of Aleppo have been freed

War-torn city is divided into various areas of control

CNN  — 

The three Spanish journalists who went missing last July in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo have returned to Spain, according to a statement released by the Spanish government.

Acting Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria was on hand to meet Antonio Pampliega, Jose Manuel Lopez and Angel Sastre at the at the Torrejon de Ardoz airbase in Madrid, where they had arrived on a flight from Turkey. They had been held in Syria since July 2015.

Acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy tweeted “Welcome!” in Spanish, accompanied by a photograph of the three men arriving.

The city is held variously by loyalist forces, extremist groups including the al Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front, and other anti-government militia. ISIS also lurks on the fringes of the devastated city.

The three men – Antonio Pampliega, Jose Manuel Lopez and Angel Sastre – appear to have entered Syria from southern Turkey on July 10. They have not been heard of since July 13. A local fixer who was reportedly working with the men has also gone missing.

READ: Return to Aleppo: ‘We are in hell’

Spanish daily El Pais reported at the time that government sources refused to assume that the reporters had been kidnapped but conceded that there were indications that they had been abducted.

The three men, all members of the RSF organization, are freelance journalists and experienced war reporters, and have covered conflicts from the field before. Sastre worked for CNN’s now-defunct Spanish affiliate CNN+ and has appeared on CNN’s Spanish-language sister network, CNN En Español, discussing the spread of ISIS.

Sastre worked for CNN’s now-defunct Spanish affiliate CNN+ and has appeared on CNN’s Spanish-language sister network, CNN En Español, discussing the spread of ISIS.

Syria remains one of the most hazardous countries for journalists to report from. News of the missing Spanish journalists comes less than a month after Japanese journalist Jumpei Yasuda went missing after crossing the Turkish-Syrian border. He has not been heard of since June 23.

CNN’s Euan McKirdy, Bijan Hosseini, and journalist Miguel Ondarreta contributed to this story.