Following a lucky escape over the Syrian border on Wednesday, reporter Anthony Loyd and photographer Jack Hill’s faces are bruised and battered -- a testament to their harrowing ordeal after they were double-crossed by the men they trusted.
The men who were supposed to provide them with a safe passage out of Syria turned on them, kidnapping them, beating them and shooting Loyd in the leg.
The two veteran reporters had been working in the restive city of Aleppo but as they were making their way across the border to Turkey to leave the war-torn country, their car was forced to the side of the road by two other cars less than 10 miles from the Turkish border.
Loyd, Hill and their local guide were tied up by a group of about seven men, The Times reported. The journalists were then split up, Hill and the guide were shoved into the trunk of the car while Loyd was hooded and bound on the back seat. The men were driven back to the small town of Tall Rifat in northern Syria and held in a warehouse guarded by the men who had been leading them to the border.
Seizing a moment of opportunity when the number of guards had changed, Hill and the local guide managed to pry the trunk of the car open and reportedly overpowered one of their captors. The local guide was able to flee on a stolen motorcycle but Hill was not as fortunate. He was recaptured and badly beaten along with his colleague Loyd, who was reportedly shot twice in the leg at close range to stop him from trying to escape.
Loyd and Hill were only released when a rebel group called "The Islamic Front" set up in December last year and tasked with countering al Qaeda-linked rebel groups, demanded their release. The two journalists and their local guide were then rescued, receiving medical treatment before they were able to finally cross the border into Turkey.
At a news conference in London today, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry joined the chorus of tributes pouring in for The Times reporters, saying “on behalf of the United States, I want to extend our deep concern to the two British journalists who were shot and who were beaten while trying to share with the world the real story of what is happening in Syria."
"This is not the first time that courageous reporters have been part of the heart-breaking story of Syria,” Kerry added, noting that “far too many journalists and innocent civilians have been hurt and killed or held hostage in Syria."
Finally, describing the bravery of journalists who venture into harm’s way to tell a story, Kerry said, “we reiterate our respect and our admiration to reporters who put their lives and their liberties on the line to tell the stories to the world that otherwise people would never learn.”