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Spanish journalists, kidnapped in Syria, return to Spain

After 10 months in captivity in Syria, Antonio Pampliega, Jose Manuel Lopez and Angel Sastre safely returned to Madrid. The three Spanish journalists went missing while working in the northern city of Aleppo.

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Three kidnapped Spanish journalists return home

Descending from a Spanish Air Force Falcon 900 executive jet on Sunday, the three men were welcomed home by delighted family members and friends at the Torrejon de Ardoz airbase, on Madrid's northeastern outskirts.

Upon confirming the journalists' release on Saturday, a spokeswoman for the Spanish government said that "all three are well." The intervention of Turkey, Qatar and "other allies and friends" was instrumental in freeing the men, the Spanish government said. It is widely believed that Madrid paid a ransom for their release, although this has not been officially confirmed.

Manuel Lopez, Angel Sastre and Antonio Pampliega traveled to Syria from Turkey on July 10 to report on the war there. The men went missing two days later, close to the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, where several other journalists have also gone missing.

At the time of their disappearance, the region was under the control of al Qaeda's Syrian branch, known as the Nusra Front. Few details have since emerged about the journalists' time in captivity.

Respected reporters

According to Elsa Gonzalez, president of Spain's federation of journalists, the three experienced freelance journalists had all worked in Syria before and knew what type of precautions they would need to take.

Manuel Lopez, Angel Sastre, and Antonio Pampliega (left to right)

Manuel Lopez, Angel Sastre and Antonio Pampliega (l-r) went missing in Syria in July 2015

Pampliega, 33, has contributed to Agence France-Presse's (AFP) coverage of the civil wars in Syria and Iraq, while 45-year-old Lopez is a prize-winning photographer who previously filed images to AFP from several war zones, including Syria.

Sastre, 35, had also worked in trouble spots around the world for Spanish television, radio and press.

Media rights group Reporters Without Borders currently ranks Syria as the most dangerous country in the world for journalists.

In August 2014, the "Islamic State" (IS) group decapitated US journalist James Foley, who was seized in northern Syriatwo years earlier. Three other Spanish journalists were released in March 2014 after being held by jihadi militants for months.

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