Captive photojournalists saved by Syrian rebels
on 27/07/2012 18:32:34
Jeroen Oerlemans, a prominent Dutch photographer, told Business News Radio of The Netherlands he is not sure which group held him and John Cantlie, but said he is sure they were not Syrian.
"They all claimed they came from countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh and Chechnya, and they said there was some vague 'emir' at the head of the group," he said in a seven-minute interview.
The men are resting in Turkey after their ordeal, and Mr Oerlemans is also recovering from two gunshot wounds suffered during an escape attempt.
His account adds weight to reports that foreign Islamic fighters are going into Syria to support the rebel side.
Mr Oerlemans told Business News Radio that he and Mr Cantlie entered Syria on July 19, and were captured almost immediately.
"You go with a donkey caravan over the border," he said. "It went left, we went right and walked into a camp of 20 tents and in no time we had a circle of men around us with Kalashnikovs and we were taken captive."
The militants accused the men of working for the CIA and took their equipment and documents, he said.
Mr Oerlemans said it soon became clear that their captors planned to seek ransom, so the photographers tried to escape. They were quickly intercepted and Mr Oerlemans was shot in the foot and thigh, he said.
His captors bandaged his wounds but kept the two men handcuffed and blindfolded after that, he said.
"I was wounded, but the bullets missed all the vital parts, and I'm frisky as a puppy and enormously happy that I've survived it all, that it ended well," he said.
On Friday morning they were told they would be moved to another location when a group of Syrian rebels stormed the tent and put the photographers in trucks.
Mr Oerlemans said he realised he had been rescued only when the men began asking him in English whether he was okay, and calling his captivity "outrageous".
Uri Rosenthal, the Netherlands foreign minister, said Dutch diplomats are travelling to meet Mr Oerlemans to help him get home. The British Foreign Office cited privacy concerns in not commenting.
Mr Cantlie's LinkedIn page describes him as a freelance journalist and photographer with 20 years' experience in "hostile environment reportage".
It says his clients have included British newspapers including the Sunday Times, the Sunday Telegraph and The Sun, GQ and FHM magazines, and the BBC.
Mr Oerlemans is well-known in the Netherlands, having won two national photography awards.