On Wednesday, NBC News chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel shared new details about his 2012 abduction in Syria.
Engel and members of his reporting team were held for five days by a group that he said claimed to be affiliated with the Assad regime. While being transferred to a different location, they were freed after being stopped at a rebel checkpoint. Engel said that he was prompted to interview law enforcement, intelligence sources, and contacts inside of Syria about his case after The New York Times approached him to say they had information suggesting the kidnappers were not who they said they were.
The Times says it interviewed dozens of people with knowledge of the event, including rebel fighters, and most were almost certain Engel was abducted by a Sunni criminal element called the North Idlib Falcons Brigade, aligned with the Free Syrian Army. The Times reports that NBC executives were told during Engle's captivity that the group was possibly involved in the kidnapping, but still had Engel go on the air after being released to blame Shiite captors.
While Engel was still being held, NBC focused on the North Idlib Falcons Brigade and its leaders, and tracked Engel and his team to a chicken farm used by the group, after looking at GPS data from an emergency beacon Engel had with him. The Times was told that once rebel leaders realized they might alienate western supporters by keeping Engel hostage, they came up with a plan to release him and the others by making it look like a rescue. In a Vanity Fair article he wrote a few months after his release, Engel stated he saw a captor lying dead following the rescue, but in his new account, he said he did not see any bodies. When approached by the Times, NBC News and Vanity Fair had no comment.