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No Safe Places In Syria: Photographer Abducted At Media Center

July 30, 2013

We’re catching up with a harrowing story out of Syria about a Polish photographer who was kidnapped last week and is possibly being held for ransom. NPR’s Rima Marrouch sent this report.

Photographer Marcin Suder was staying at a media center in the rebel-held town of Saraqeb in Idlib province when a group of masked men reportedly stormed in Wednesday morning. They beat a Syrian media activist, stole equipment and abducted Suder.

It’s unclear who might be responsible for the kidnapping. According to The Associated Press, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said Friday that it’s likely Suder was taken by radicals seeking ransom and that the abduction “probably has the character of a robbery.”

I spoke with Mohamad al-Khaled, an activist from Saraqeb who says he was at the media center when Suder was kidnapped. He says Suder had spent the previous day taking pictures of a woman and her daughter, who survived a cluster-bomb attack.

The Saraqeb media center is a small apartment where foreign journalists and activists from across Syria often stay during their assignments and visits. Like other Syrian media centers, it has a generator to produce electricity and is usually equipped with satellite Internet to send out stories and photographs.

These places sometimes give an illusion of comfort, with the Internet connection making it possible to have contact with friends and family. But there are no safe places in Syria. Three days before Suder’s kidnapping, Saraqeb was hit by several airstrikes.

But Suder “felt he needs to be there,” Khalid al-Issa, a photographer from the nearby town of Kafranbel, told me. He says Suder was staying in Kafranbel for a few days before heading to Saraqeb.

“I told him that Saraqeb is dangerous, but he said he is a war correspondent and he needs to be there,” al-Issa said.

Syrian filmmaker Obeida Zyton told me: “We all used this network before. We stayed at the media center and we felt safe. Now, not any more.”  Read more at National Public Radio.

 

From the Warsaw Business Journal on July 26

Polish photo-journalist abducted in Syria for ransom?

Eyewitness of the kidnapping of photographer Marcin Suder in Syria claims it was a typical kidnapping for ransom as the perpetrators stole computer equipment, cell phones and other electronic devices from the office Mr Suder was working in.

Poland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs still doesn’t have a confirmation that Mr Suder was kidnapped, but believe it to be the most probable version of the events, Ministry’s press officer Marcin Bosacki said. “We do not have ironclad evidence, we have received media reports and information from witnesses which has not been verified by the ministry yet,” he added.

Mr Bosacki said that the case is still being investigated by a special group within the ministry. “The situation is delicate and we will announce only information that we are sure of,” he said.

On Wednesday Reuters reported that Mr Suder was taken hostage by Islamist militants in Syria, quoting Syrian opposition activists. In 2012, 21 journalists have been kidnapped in the country, most of them were released.

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