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.

Aleppo 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 appeared to have entered Syria from southern Turkey last July 10. They had not been heard from since July 13. A local fixer who was reportedly working with the men also went 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 – members of the Spanish wing of the international journalist organization Reporters Without Borders, which is also known by its French acronym RSF – 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.

Syria remains one of the most hazardous countries for journalists to report from. 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.