NEW YORK -- Richard Engel, NBC's chief foreign correspondent, was freed Monday from capture in Syria following a firefight, five days after being kidnapped.
NBC News president Steve Capus said in a statement Tuesday that Engel, 39, and his crew were freed unharmed after being taken by an unknown group. "We are pleased to report they are safely out of the country,” Capus said.
"It was a traumatic experience," Engel said Tuesday morning, during an appearance with his crew on the "Today" show from Antakya, Turkey. Engel appeared alongside producer Ghazi Balkiz and photographer John Kooistra.
"We're very happy to be here," Engel said. "We're in good health. We're OK. Everyone was great. NBC was fantastic in informing our families, keeping people up to date, keeping the story quiet."
"While we're obviously very happy, there are many people who are still not at liberty to do this kind of thing," Engel continued. "There are still hostages. There are still people who do not have their freedom inside Syria. We wish them well."
An NBC News account noted that Engel's captors did not request a ransom since detaining Engel and the crew last Thursday.
After entering Syria, Engel and his team were abducted, tossed into the back of a truck and blindfolded before being transported to an unknown location believed to be near the small town of Ma’arrat Misrin. During their captivity, they were blindfolded and bound, but otherwise not physically harmed, the network said.
Early Monday evening local time, the prisoners were being moved to a new location in a vehicle when their captors ran into a checkpoint manned by members of the Ahrar al-Sham brigade, a Syrian rebel group. There was a confrontation and a firefight ensued. Two of the captors were killed, while an unknown number of others escaped, the network said.
The NBC News crew was unharmed in the incident. They remained in Syria until Tuesday morning when they made their way to the border and re-entered Turkey, the network said. They were to be evaluated and debriefed, but had communicated that everyone was in good health.
Engel provided more details on the "Today" show, telling the hosts that a group of roughly 15 heavily-armed gunman jumped out of bushes and abducted the crew, while killing one of the rebels that was escorting Engel.
While there was no physical torture, Engel said there was psychological torture, such as threat of being killed or being asked to choose who would be shot first.
Engel said he believed the kidnappers were an Iranian-trained Shiite group loyal to Bashar al-Assad, which had hoped to exchange the crew for four Iranian agents and two Lebanese members of the group that had been captured.
Turkish media began reporting Monday that Engel and Aziz Akyavas, a Turkish correspondent working for NBC News, were missing in Syria and could not be reached for several days.
The Huffington Post did not publish an article Monday on Engel's disappearance at the request of NBC News, which cited safety concerns.
It's common for news organizations to make such requests when they believe media attention could put a missing or kidnapped journalist in increased danger. For instance, many news organizations didn't report that former New York Times reporter David Rohde had been kidnapped by the Taliban in 2008, at the paper's request. The Times only revealed that Rohde had been kidnapped seven months later, after he had escaped and was out of harm's way.
But social media played less of a role in the news cycle even just a few years ago, when Rohde was kidnapped. It now seems inevitable that news -- even a single English-language report out of Turkey -- can gain traction over Twitter and get widely disseminated. Several online news outlets linked to the Turkish media reports, however, along with numerous journalists on Twitter. Others held off at the network's request.
Engel, who has covered revolutions, conflict zones and wars around the globe for more than 15 years, reported on Dec. 13 from Aleppo, Syria, as rebels continued battling against Bashar al-Assad's regime.
Journalists have taken great risks covering the long-running conflict, which has reportedly left more than 40,000 dead in the past 20 months. In July, several foreign correspondents expressed frustration to HuffPost about coverage of Syria -- which is often from the outside looking in, given security concerns.
But journalists continue trying to bear witness inside Syria, and Engel isn't the first to be unaccounted for. Austin Tice, an American journalist kidnapped in August, remains missing in the country.