Famous NBC foreign correspondent Richard Engel and Turkish journalist Aziz Akyavas were kidnapped by, Engel believes, Shiite militants loyal to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. Engel told the "Today" show that roughly 15 heavily armed gunmen rushed at them from the bushes, killing one of the Syrian rebels who was escorting Engel and the NBC team.
"It was a traumatic experience," Richard Engel said. Engel described psychological torture (though no physical torture) including the threat of being killed, and being told to choose who would be shot first.
Richard Engel believes the kidnappers were an Iranian-trained Shiite group loyal to Bashar al-Assad, who hoped to exchange the crew for four Iranian agents and two Lebanese members of the group that had been captured.
A week after capture, a lucky break for Engel and the other captured: their captors ran into a checkpoint manned by members of the Ahrar al-Sham brigade, a Syrian rebel group. A firefight ensued, killing two of the captors. The rest of the kidnappers escaped, leaving Engel and the others behind.
The NBC News crew was unharmed in the incident. They remained in Syria until Tuesday morning when they made their way to the border and re-entered Turkey, the network said.