Spain seeks news on journalists missing in Syria


Spanish officials say they are trying to establish what happened to three freelance journalists who went missing around the embattled northern Syrian city of Aleppo.

Justice minister Rafael Catala told Spain’s Cadena SER radio the government has no news regarding the three Spaniards and will contact the government in Damascus over the case.

Foreign minister Jose Manuel Garcia Margallo said such cases cause much anxiety “because you have a certain sense of impotence, because you’re dependent on the movements of those who have kidnapped our compatriots”.

So far, the government has not specifically said if it is treating the case as a kidnapping.

Mr Margallo urged “maximum discretion” in the case, but called for “tranquillity”, saying similar situations in the past had ended well for Spain.

Meanwhile, it has emerged that a fourth journalist, a Japanese national, has also gone missing in the war-torn country.

With the rise of the Islamic State group and a spate of journalist abductions starting in mid-2013, most media organisations have opted to stay away from coverage inside Syria because of the risk.

A Spanish journalism association first reported yesterday that the trio – identified as Antoniu Pampliega, Jose Manuel Lopez and Angel Sastre – have been missing since July 13. They had travelled to Syria, presumably together, to report on the country’s long-running civil war.

“An effort has been under way since then to search and locate them,” a statement from their families said.

The Japanese freelancer Jumpei Yasuda, who has been reporting on the Middle East since 2002, has not been in contact for a month.

He was taken hostage in Iraq in 2004 with three other Japanese civilians but was freed after Islamic clerics negotiated his release.

Kosuke Tsuneoka, another freelance reporter, said today he received a message from Mr Yasuda in Syria on June 23, but has not heard from him since.

“It is not normal that there has been no contact from him at all,” Mr Tsuneoka said, though he cautioned that no-one should jump to conclusions about Mr Yasuda’s fate.

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