An American journalist and his driver were reportedly abducted by a militant group in northern Syria as they left a mosque on Aug. 13, the Committee to Protect Journalists reported.
Bilal Abdul-Kareem, an independent American journalist, and his driver were reportedly taken in the Syrian town of Atmeh by armed, masked militants with Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, an Al Qaida group formerly known as Al Nusra Front, the CPJ reported. The CPJ called for Abdul-Kareem and his driver to be released and urged the group to stop detaining journalists.
“It’s shameful for Hayat Tahrir al-Sham to snatch a journalist and his driver in the middle of the street and take them to an unknown location without explaining why,” Ignacio Miguel Delgado, the CPJ representative for the Middle East and North Africa, CPJ reported.
“We call on Hayat Tahrir al-Sham to release Bilal Abdul-Kareem and Mohammad al-Homsi immediately and let journalists do their job freely and without fear of reprisal,” Delgado added, CPJ reported.
He’d been wanted – and was mostly in hiding – since #HTS‘s arrest of [former] #UK citizen Tauqir Sharif, who himself was re-arrested yesterday, after several weeks “on bail.” pic.twitter.com/Se9Vv6vIoY
— Charles Lister (@Charles_Lister) August 13, 2020
Abdul-Kareem and his driver were reportedly praying at a mosque before they were abducted by the group, the CPJ reported. They were taken away by reportedly armed, masked men in two cars.
“Abdul-Kareem tried to flee, but they pointed their guns at him. I ran away and they were unable to arrest me. They beat them severely and handcuffed them,” Abdul-Kareem’s step-son Jihad said, the CPJ reported.
The incident reportedly occurred two days after Abdul-Kareem’s outlet, On the Ground News, published an interview with the wife of a British aid worker who was reportedly abducted and tortured by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the CPJ reported. The day he was reportedly abducted, Abdul-Kareem tweeted that the group had tortured the man at a prison in June.
OGN has posed a public question regarding Tauqir Tox Sharif’s “torture” in HTS prison to British Dr. Shajul Islam. Did he attempt to cover up the incident?
— On the Ground News (@OGNreports) August 13, 2020
An arrest warrant was allegedly issued by the group for Abdul-Kareem citing “a number of allegations,” according to the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham media relations office, the CPJ reported.
Hayat Tahrir al-Sham accused Abdul-Kareem of making “fabrications concerning the judiciary and security forces,” in a statement sent to the CPJ. A decision on Abdul-Kareem’s case will be determined “in the next few days,” according to the group’s statement.
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