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Posts Tagged ‘Ghazi Balkiz’

Five Months After Being Kidnapped There, Richard Engel Returns to Syria

NBC News Chief Foreign Correspondent Richard Engel and his production team traveled into Syria early this morning to investigate the reported use of chemical weapons there. Engel interviewed rebel leaders and their supporters about the ongoing civil war that has already claimed 70,000 lives.

In December, Engel and his producer Ghazi Balkiz, camera operator John Kooistra, and freelance journalist Aziz Akyavas were driving in a rebel-controlled area when a group of gunmen stormed their vehicle, dragged them from their car, executed one of the rebels they were traveling with, and held them hostage. Over five days, they were moved them from safehouse to safehouse while being subject to psychological warfare, including mock executions.

Engel’s reports from today will begin airing on NBC tomorrow.

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NBC’s Ghazi Balkiz Recalls Syria Kidnapping

NBC News producer Ghazi Balkiz was kidnapped in Syria in December, alongside NBC News chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel and a few of their colleagues. Following Engel’s recollection of the kidnapping for Vanity Fair, Balkiz writes about the experience for NBCNews.com:

When we as journalists go into the field, we know the risks we are taking. But I guess we, or at least I, always thought, “It is not going to happen to us.” But this time, it did happen to us. This does not stem from an unrealistic approach to things, events and life, because trust me: What I see in the field is very real. We cover war and conflict zones and in those situations, bad things happen and people die. The way I go about it is to plan for the worst but hope for the best.

Richard Engel And His Team Thought They Would Die In Syria

In their interview with “Rock Center” last night, NBC News chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel, along with his production team, said that they believed they would die in Syria.

Engel, cameraman John Kooistra , producers Ghazi Balkiz, Aziz Akyavas and Ammar Cheikh Omar arrived in the U.S. late yesterday, and Savannah Guthrie conducted the interview not long after they landed.

Guthrie asked them to raise their hands if they thought that “this is it,” that they would die in Syria. Every man raised their hand.

“There was no doubt that these were violent people and that they could have executed us at any stage,” Engel said.

WATCH:


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‘Rock Center’ To Talk To Richard Engel, As ‘Meet The Press Talks To The NRA

NBC News has announced a pair of notable interviews, with “Rock Center” to feature a discussion with Richard Engel and his crew, and “Meet the Press” securing the first interview with NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre since the awful shooting in Newtown, CT last week.

On “Rock Center” tonight Brian Williams will sit down with Engel, as well as producers Ghazi Balkiz and Aziz Akyavas, and cameraman John Kooistra “to hear their story first-hand.” Other stories include an Ann Curry piece on Sandy Hook and the latest from Chelsea Clinton.

On “Meet the Press” Sunday, David Gregory will sit with LaPierre in his first interview since the Newtown shooting. The NRA is slated to hold a press conference today, so whatever they announce there will surely come up in the interview.

A Brief Timeline Of American TV Correspondent Kidnappings, Injuries and Deaths

NBC News chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel is safe, after being kidnapped in Syria late last week and released overnight. Unfortunately, kidnappings, injuries and death are part of the job of the foreign correspondent and their crew. With stories out of Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria, Egypt and Libya in the last few years, just about every news outlet has had at least a handful of staffers affected by violence or misfortune.

In April, 2003, NBC News correspondent David Bloom died in Iraq due to a blood clot.

In June, 2003, NBC News Soundman Jeremy Little was mortally wounded in a grenade attack in Iraq. He was treated in Landstuhl, Germany but succumbed a few days later to a post-operative infection.

In January, 2006, ABC anchor Bob Woodruff and camera operator Doug Vogt were badly injured in Iraq when a roadside bomb exploded next to the vehicle they were traveling in.

In May, 2006 CBS camera operator Paul Douglas and sound technician James Brolan were killed in Iraq when the U.S. Army unit they were embedded with came under attack. CBS correspondent Kimberly Dozier was seriously wounded in the attack and survived.

In August, 2006 Fox News Channel correspondent Steve Centanni and camera operator Olaf Wiig were kidnapped while reporting in Gaza. Centanni’s family would make a televised plea for their safe return, and they were eventually freed. Wiig would see another incident in Egypt in 2011 (see below).

In May, 2007 ABC News camera operator Alaa Uldeen Aziz and sound technician Saif Laith Yousuf were killed in Iraq when the car they were traveling in was ambushed.

In August, 2008 Fox News camera operator Chris Jackson was injured in Afghanistan while traveling with Oliver North.

In August, 2009 CBS News correspondent Cami McCormick was injured in Afghanistan when the vehicle she was traveling in was hit by an IED.

February 2011 saw a number of incidents, particularly in Egypt:
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Richard Engel And Team Freed After Being Held Captive In Syria

NBC News chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel, along with his production team, have been freed after being held captive in Syria. NBC lost communication with the team late last week, and had no contact with Engel or his captors until he had been freed.

The team, comprised of Engel, producer Ghazi Balkiz, camera operator John Kooistra, and freelance journalist Aziz Akyavas had been driving in Syria in a rebel-controlled area, with some of the Syrian rebels. A group of gunmen stormed their vehicle, dragged them from their car, executed one of the rebels, and held them hostage, moving them from safehouse to safehouse. Along the way, they conducted psychological warfare on Engel and his crew, including mock executions.

They were freed when the kidnappers came across a rebel checkpoint, started a gunfight with the rebels, and Engel and his team crawled from the vehicle after two of their captors had been killed. The rebels took Engel and his team to safety, and escorted them to the Turkish border.

It was a harrowing tale, which Engel recounted this morning:

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