Two Turkish journalists who were missing for five days in Syria are being held by Syrian intelligence, the Anatolia news agency reported on Thursday.
Anatolia quoted unnamed local sources as saying the two journalists were handed over to Syrian intelligence by pro-regime Shabiha militias in the village of al-Fua in the opposition bastion of Idlib. Idlib has been the scene of heavy fighting between the Syrian military and opposition forces in recent days. Adem Özköse and Hamit Coşkun were taken from al-Fua in a vehicle escorted by two armored vehicles, according to witnesses. It was not clear where the journalists were being taken.
Earlier in the day, Foreign Ministry spokesman Selçuk Ünal also said Turkish authorities have contacted their Syrian counterparts to determine the whereabouts of the two journalists, but that there has been no information officially confirmed as to where they are and if they are safe.
Turkey also appears to be in contact with Syrian ally Iran. Turkish officials told Today’s Zaman that Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu phoned his Iranian counterpart, Ali Akbar Salehi, on Wednesday to discuss the missing journalists. Davutoğlu told Salehi that Syria should “avoid making a mistake.” Özköse, a reporter from the İstanbul-based Gerçek Hayat (Real Life) magazine and the Milat daily, arrived with Coşkun, a cameraman, in Syria on March 5. They were last heard from on March 10. Members from the Freedom Association (Özgür-Der) on Thursday held a demonstration in front of the Syrian Consulate General in İstanbul, asking Syrian authorities to return the two missing journalists to Turkey. The protesters also chanted slogans against the Syrian regime.