NEW YORK (AP) — NBC News chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel is back quickly and safely from his first trip to Syria since he and his team were kidnapped and held captive there last December.
Engel interviewed rebel fighters who allege the Syrian government used chemical weapons in an attack last month. His reports were airing Wednesday on the “Today” show and “NBC Nightly News.”
Engel traveled with photographer John Kooistra, who was kidnapped with him in December.
Engel took some time off after the kidnapping and said his bosses weren’t anxious to send him back to Syria. But he said it was important to go because of the story.
“It did make me feel better,” he said via telephone from Turkey on Wednesday. “It was important for me to go back, but I won’t say that I went back to prove to myself that I could do it.”
He and his team were captured by forces loyal to the Syrian government in December and were subjected to mock executions during a four-day period of captivity. They escaped during a firefight with rebel forces.
It was a smaller NBC team that went this week, primarily because it was a shorter trip. The team spent less than 24 hours in Syria, talking to rebel fighters and commanders about the chemical-weapons allegations.
“There are so many stories circulating about chemical weapons,” Engel said. “The only way to find out who is telling the truth is by going to the areas and seeing what they have to offer.”
President Barack Obama’s administration has said it is considering providing weapons to vetted units in the armed opposition to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime, among other military options, following last week’s revelation a U.S. intelligence assessment suggested chemical weapons use by the regime.
Officials in Syria’s capital, Damascus, deny claims the Assad regime has used chemical weapons.