Turkish photographer freed in Syria returns home

AFP , Monday 6 Jan 2014

Batuhan Murat Aygun (2nd L), son of Turkish photojournalist Bunyamin Aygun, shouts slogans as he marches with journalists during a demonstration in central Istanbul Jan. 5, 2014 (Photo: Reuters)

An award-winning Turkish photographer kidnapped while covering the civil war in neighbouring Syria has returned home after being freed from weeks in captivity, his newspaper said on Monday.

Bunyamin Aygun, who works for the Milliyet daily, was taken hostage by radical Islamists in mid-December during a reporting mission in the war-torn country.

He was freed on Sunday and entered Turkish territory accompanied by eight members of the National Intelligence Organisation (MIT), Milliyet said.

"Every night, I had the same dream that I was being freed. I cannot believe that I am free now. It feels like a dream," the daily quoted him as saying.

Aygun said that Al-Qaeda-linked jihadists who kidnapped him threatened to "cut him into pieces".

"He said, 'It's either execution by firing squad or by being cut into pieces. We will cut you into pieces, this is more honorable for you," Aygun said, referring to a militant.

Asked whether the militants asked for ransom, Aygun told reporters in Istanbul: "I was not aware of anything. My eyes were blindfolded all the time. They opened my eyes only when I went to the toilet. I was not informed of the matter."

Rights groups describe Syria as the world's most dangerous country from which to report.

Twenty-five journalists have been killed since the start of the conflict in March 2011, according to Reporters Without Borders (RSF), while more than 30 journalists are estimated to have been abducted or detained.

The Al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) is believed to be holding several foreign journalists, as well as scores of Syrian activists.

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