Final member of NBC team free after Syria kidnap

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 19, 2012 at 12:31 pm •  Published: December 19, 2012

Appearing on NBC's "Today" show Tuesday, an unshaven Engel said more than a dozen pro-regime gunmen dragged him and his colleagues from their car, killed one of their rebel escorts and subjected them to mock executions.

He said they escaped during a firefight Monday night between their captors and rebels at a checkpoint.

Engel said he believes the kidnappers were a Shiite militia group loyal to President Bashar Assad's government, which has lost control over swaths of the country's north and is increasingly on the defensive in a civil war that activists say has killed 40,000 people since March 2011.

"They kept us blindfolded, bound," said the 39-year-old Engel, who speaks and reads Arabic. "We weren't physically beaten or tortured. A lot of psychological torture, threats of being killed. They made us choose which one of us would be shot first and when we refused, there were mock shootings."

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Syria is by far the deadliest country for the news media in 2012, with 28 journalists killed in combat or targeted for murder by government or opposition forces.